Category Archives: NEWS DIGEST

Regional Roundup for the week of 6.15.14

It’s a good week for the environment in Southeast Asia with the discovery of over 300 new species in the Mekong river region, as well as the development of a new software program and community engagement plan to model changes to the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia.

Top news this week also included the lifting of a national curfew in Thailand, as well as a timeline for an interim government to be in place by August. The world’s fourth-largest supermarket corporation Carrefour announced a ban on Thai shrimp products after extensive reports of slave conditions in the fishing industry, and other companies may follow.

Tensions remain high in the South China Sea, with continued back-and-forth diplomatic jabs from China and Vietnam over increasingly escalated confrontations between fishing boats and government vessels from both countries.

ExSE FOCUS

Thailand: Nationwide Curfew Lifted | NYT — Thailand’s military government announced Friday that it had fully lifted a nationwide curfew it imposed after seizing power last month.

A Push to Save Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake | NYT — Scientists are digitally tracking the links between human activity and the fragile ecosystem of Cambodia’s great lake./Ambitious computer modeling project that could help predict the impact of climate change and monsoons (as well as hydroelectric projects) on critical fisheries resources./

Flying squirrel and eyeless spider discovered in Greater Mekong | Guardian — Over 300 new species of animals, fish and plants found in the forests surrounding Mekong river in 2012-13, WWF says. A series of high-flying creatures, including giant flying frogs and squirrels and a parachute gecko, are among the hundreds of exotic new species recently discovered in the greater Mekong region in southeast Asia./Over 300 more reasons for researching the river system and strengthening environmental impact assessment protocols./

Slave labour producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK: your questions answered | Guardian — A six-month investigation established that large numbers of men are bought, sold and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand and are integral to the production of prawns sold in major supermarkets in the UK and US.

China Accuses Vietnam of Ramming Ships to Stop Rig | NYT — China says that Vietnamese ships have rammed Chinese vessels 1,416 times since a dispute over a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea flared up in May.

China joins in world’s largest naval exercises | Guardian — Chinese ships headed for waters near Hawaii on Tuesday to participate for the first time in the world’s largest naval exercises, a rare opportunity to build trust with the US and regional rivals including the Philippines and Japan.

Record-setting turn-out at South Asia Expo | GoKunming — The Second Annual China-South Asia Expo and the Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair ended on Tuesday after generating 130 billion yuan (US$21 billion) in trade turnover, once again smashing totals from previous years. In addition, contracts signed during this five-day period are estimated to yield a whopping 708.2 billion yuan in capital investment.

CHINA

Arrested Chinese Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang Speaks from Prison | ChinaFile — Early this morning, the Beijing Public Security Bureau formally arrested rights-defense lawyer Pu Zhiqiang on charges of picking quarrels and illegally obtaining personal information about a Chinese citizen. The arrest, announced via one of the PSB’s verified social media accounts, came 37 days after Pu was detained after attending a private commemoration of the June Fourth Tiananmen Square massacre.

Campaign to Crack Down on Fringe Sects in China Worries Mainstream Churches | NYT — The campaign was prompted by the murder of a woman at a McDonald’s that horrified the nation and was attributed to adherents of a religious group.

Square Feet: Chinese Shoppers Change Hong Kong Border Area | NYT — Vast numbers of mainland Chinese traders and shoppers are pumping money into Hong Kong, leading to rapid development of the territory’s border area.

Contributing Op-Ed Writer: The True Cost of China’s Fakes | NYT — The government could learn something from how online shoppers deal with the problem of counterfeit goods.

Huaqiangbei: the mega market with every smartphone part in pictures | Guardian — Huaqiangbei is a gigantic electronics parts market in the middle of Shenzhen, China. To explore it is to enter an Aladdins cave where almost everything you need to build a computer or smartphone – or 100 or 1,000 of them – is available.

Inside Shenzhen: China’s Silicon Valley | Guardian — Just 30 years ago this Pearl River Delta megacity was a mere fishing village. Now home to up to 15 million people it hopes to become a tech nirvana for the world’s hardware startups.

Momo, the Chinese app that exposes sex and generational divides | Guardian — When Chen Xiaozhe downloaded the smartphone application Momo, his intentions were clear. “My principal motive was to try to have sex with a wide variety of girls,” said Chen, 27, who runs an online shop. Momo attracts 100m social networking users, but is trying to shake off its ‘hookup’ reputation.

How Adidas supported worker rights in China factory strike | Guardian — A strike at Taiwanese shoe manufacturer Yue Yuen in Dongguan, China, which supplies athletic shoes to the likes of Nike and Adidas, brought the 43,000 employee outfit to a standstill for 10 days in April. Two months on and the factory still does not appear to have returned to full capacity.

Obesity: Chubby little emperors | Economist — With rising incomes and more diverse diets, Chinese people are consuming much more fatty food and fizzy drinks. Meals now contain more than twice as much oil and meats as in the 1980s.This is producing a health calamity, both in heart disease (which now accounts for over a third of deaths) and in a less-noticed explosion of diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity.

Malnutrition: The hungry and forgotten | Economist — Widespread malnutrition still threatens to hold back a generation of rural Chinese.China used to have more undernourished people than anywhere in the world except India: about 300m, or 30% of the population in 1980. Economic growth has pulled half of them out of poverty and hunger. But that still leaves about 150m, mainly in the countryside.

REGION

Border Makes China and India Bristle, Even as They Seek Closer Ties in Trade | NYT — As the neighbors try to reinvigorate their economic relationship in meetings this week, India’s support for Tibetan exiles who seek regional autonomy is an abiding source of conflict.

Establishing Quid Pro Quo on the India-China Border | Diplomat — Establishing Indian sovereignty in Arunachal Pradesh could solidify Chinese claims in Tibet.

China Calls Japan the Aggressor in Flybys Over Sea | NYT — China contradicted Japan’s account of the latest close encounters between military aircraft, further escalating tensions between the two countries.

Vietnam and the South China Sea: Rigged | Economist — Vietnam and China share a long history of enmity—and of managing to patch things up when they go wrong. But their latest dispute is not running true to form.

How Indonesia and the Philippines Solved Their Maritime Dispute | Diplomat — The recent Indonesian-Philippine maritime pact offers important lessons for the South China Sea disputes.

CAMBODIA

Cambodian Activist’s Fall Exposes Broad Deception | NYT — Activists say the story of Somaly Mam is part of a larger tale of deception meant to attract foreign money into impoverished Cambodia./Unfortunately a widespread problem in Cambodia, many NGOs are well-intentioned but poorly managed, and others are dysfunctional to the point of corruption./

Rolls-Royce to open showroom in Cambodian capital | Guardian — A British luxury car manufacture will soon be marketing its goods in one of the world’s poorest countries: Cambodia. Rolls-Royce announced on Monday that it has joined with a Cambodian business partner to open a showroom in the capital Phnom Penh next month.

INDONESIA

Jokowi’s Plans? | Diplomat — The frontrunner in Indonesia’s presidential election has been remarkably vague on his policies.

MALAYSIA

World Briefing: Malaysia: Jet Insurance Payments Begin | NYT — Malaysia Airlines has begun giving out $50,000 in advance insurance payments to families of people aboard the missing Flight 370, but many Chinese relatives have indicated that they will reject the money.

MH370 families in drive to raise $5m to entice ‘whistleblower’ to solve mystery | Guardian — Several families of those aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 launched a drive on Sunday to raise $5m for any insider who can resolve the mystery of the plane’s disappearance three months ago.

MYANMAR/BURMA

World Briefing: Myanmar: Opposition Is Dealt a Blow | NYT — A parliamentary committee has voted against changing a clause in Myanmar’s Constitution that bars the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, left, from becoming president.

Op-Ed Contributor: The People vs. The Monks | NYT — Never before have so many lay Buddhists in Myanmar pushed back against the monks.

PHILIPPINES

Top Militant Leader Is Arrested in Philippines | NYT — Khair Mundos, 50, a leader of Abu Sayyaf, was arrested on Wednesday morning in southern Manila, according to a statement from the police.

THAILAND

Interim Thai government in place by August, says junta leader | Guardian — The head of the junta that seized power in Thailand last month has said an interim government will be set up by August the first time he has given a clear date on the military handing back any sort of power in the country.

In Thailand, Growing Intolerance for Dissent Drives Many to More Authoritarian Nations | NYT — Since the military coup last month, academics and activists have been driven to flee a nation once considered a liberal haven in Asia.

US may blacklist Thailand after prawn trade slavery revelations | Guardian — The US is considering downgrading Thailand on a human trafficking blacklist, following revelations in the Guardian that slaves are being used in the production of prawns sold in leading American, British and European supermarkets.

Carrefour stops buying prawns from CP Foods following slavery revelations | Guardian –Supermarket group Carrefour has decided to stop buying prawns from the Thai company CP Foods, following a Guardian investigation which revealed slavery in the supply chain. The French retailer, which is one of the four largest in the world, announced that it had suspended purchases while it audited the complex chain.

VIETNAM

In Vietnam, Paying Communities to Preserve the Forests | NYT — The country is the first in Southeast Asia to make ecosystem payments a national policy through a 2010 law that established an incentive program./The program is paid for mainly by state-owned hydroelectric operations, and provides subsidies to farmers to reduce the incentive of illegal logging or coffee planting. Could be a promising model but has significant shortcomings./

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Regional Roundup for Week of 6.8.14

Vacation time is over.  Time to get back to blogging.

EXSE FOCUS

Tiananmen: How Wrong We Were – ChinaFile Twenty-five years ago to the day I write this, I watched and listened as thousands of Chinese citizens in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square dared to condemn their leaders. Some shouted “Premier Li Peng resign.” Even braver ones cried “Down with Deng Xiaoping and the Communist Party.” Before long, on the night of June 3–4, the People’s Liberation Army crashed into the square, rolling over the tents pitched there by industrial workers who had joined in the protests, and mowing down unarmed demonstrators. Until then, crowds in the square had walked wherever they pleased rather than standing on one of the numbered paving stones in that vast space. For decades, those who went there to see and hear national leaders were instructed to stand on a particular stone and shout prescribed slogans. But in May 1989, students and ordinary people were engaged in something the Communist Party has never been able to tolerate: zifade, “spontaneous” demonstrations.//Entire section below dedicated to Tiananmen at 25

What Has Gone Wrong in Southeast Asia? – Asia Unbound What has gone wrong in Southeast Asia? Between the late 1980s and the late 2000s, many countries in the region were viewed by global democracy analysts and Southeast Asians themselves as leading examples of democratization in the developing world. By the late 2000s, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore all were ranked as “free” or “partly free” by the monitoring organization Freedom House, while Cambodia and, perhaps most surprisingly, Myanmar had both taken sizable steps toward democracy as well. //The political conversation has shifted from democracy to economic development.  China’s rise has a lot but not everything to do with this.  A widening income and social gap is empowering urban elites to take tighter control amid perceptions of resource depletion and narrowing opportunities.  

Hunger Games salute banned by Thai military – Guardian Groups opposing 22 May coup banned from displaying three fingers in the air as Thai junta clamps down on protest.//more below in the Thailand section

A Chinese Monroe Doctrine? Project Syndicate Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s upcoming visit to India is about more than getting acquainted with the country’s new government. The leaders of both countries will be taking one another’s measure, and their conclusions will determine how the relationship between the world’s two most populous countries evolves.//Many Chinese for decades have seen countries to its south as populated by its ‘little brown brothers.’  This perception is part of an ill-informed and historically inaccurate view of a China-centric Asia and also reflects dominant Confucian values.   

Securing the Rule of Law at Sea – Project Syndicate The sources of instability in the Asia-Pacific region include not only the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but also – and more//By Japanese PM Shinzo Abe

The Climate Domino – NYT The E.P.A.’s proposed rules on carbon should start a chain reaction that leads to steps to limit climate change around the world.//Hopefully China dives in headfirst as the second global demonstrating power

Obama’s Foreign Policy Book – NYT Here are a few working titles for the president’s consideration.

Obama Success, or Global Shame? – NYT On this year’s “win-a-trip” journey, one man living under an ignored apartheid sends out a message to the world: We are suffering. Will anyone respond?//Obama continues to ignore the obvious in Myanmar

Dust-up at the Shangri-La – Banyan TEMPERS frayed rather alarmingly at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum for Asia’s defence establishments, held in one of the eponymous hotels, in Singapore. First Japan and then America criticised China. Then China reciprocated in furious terms. The 13th dialogue, from May 30th to June 1st, could hardly have been better timed to deal with the region’s security anxieties. Over the past six months the level of concern about China’s aggressive pursuit of disputed territorial claims has been increasing steadily, at least outside China.

China Accuses U.S. and Japan of Incitement – NYT A senior Chinese military official’s remarks followed speeches by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Japan’s prime minister faulting China for maritime disputes with its neighbors

U.S. Sway in Asia Is Imperiled as China Challenges Alliances – NYT As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Singapore, the Obama administration’s Asia policy appeared to be turning into a street fight, with the United States playing referee.

Are Cooler Heads Prevailing in the East China Sea? – Diplomat China and Japan appear motivated to find common ground after last weekend’s fireworks.

China and the U.S.: Whose Strategic Mistake? – Diplomat China had best keep in mind that no one has a monopoly on making strategic mistakes.’

China’s Maritime Provocations – ChinaFile Last weekend I attended the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of Asian, European, and American defense and military officials and strategic experts in Singapore hosted by the London International Institute of Strategic Studies. China sent a large and well-disciplined contingent of People’s Liberation Army officers, government officials, and think tank experts who were instructed what to say in the various sessions.

U.S. Imposes Steep Tariffs on Importers of Chinese Solar Panels – NYT The Commerce Department, ruling in a long-simmering trade dispute, said manufacturers had benefited from unfair subsidies.

China’s Solar Panel Production Comes at a Dirty Cost – NYT A solar panel made in China would have to be in service as much as 30 percent longer than a European model to compensate for the extra energy used in its production, an American study found.

As Ties With China Unravel, U.S. Companies Head to Mexico – NYT With costs rising rapidly in China, American manufacturers are looking to Mexico with an eagerness not seen since the early years of the North American Free Trade Agreement.//Are perceptions of rising oil costs driving US imports closer to home?  Why aren’t Vietnam (TPP?), Cambodia, Bangladesh, etc in the consideration?

China Escalating Attack on Google – NYT The Chinese authorities have blocked global versions of the company’s search engines, and Gmail, Calendar and Translate have been affected.//It’s bad here folks, all google applications now require a VPN for smooth access. 

Global Times Editor Apologizes to Chinese Veterans Over Online Post – NYT Hu Xijin had suggested that some soldiers in China’s 1979 war with Vietnam shirked participation in “dare-to-die” squads that carried out risky, suicidal missions. The official newspaper of the military said that was “nonsense.”

Beijing Seems to Be Warming Toward Aung San Suu Kyi – NYT There are new signs that a long-awaited visit to Beijing by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar opposition leader, may be getting closer.//About time and very necessary.  ASSK has never signalled her China policy and a new Myanmar cannot move forward without a strong connection to China (as well as robust connections to the rest of the world.)  This is not a signal that the US Pivot to Asia is failing.  

China’s Demand Threatens Rare Hardwoods in Mekong – NYT A new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency says that illegal logging and corruption have contributed to the near extinction of Siamese rosewood, a rare tropical hardwood found in the Mekong region.//Kunming and other parts of Yunnan have warehouses full of these timber products.  Few consumers here are aware that theses types of wood are illegal.

Scientists warn against China’s plan to flatten over 700 mountains – Guardian Environmental consequences of removing hills to create more land for cities not considered, academics say in Nature paper. Scientists have criticised China’s bulldozing of hundreds of mountains to provide more building land for cities.  In a paper published in journal Nature this week, three Chinese academics say plan to remove over 700 mountains and shovel debris into valleys to create 250 sq km of flat land has not been sufficiently considered environmentally, technically or economically.//700 nails standing out among all others?

Flying squirrel and eyeless spider discovered in Greater Mekong – Guardian Over 300 new species of animals, fish and plants found in the forests surrounding Mekong river in 2012-13, WWF says. A series of high-flying creatures, including giant flying frogs and squirrels and a parachute gecko, are among the hundreds of exotic new species recently discovered in the greater Mekong region in southeast Asia.//Kudos to WWF, only more reason to back the WWF’s 10 year moratorium on hydropower projects in the Mekong region.  

Energy independence, national security and another reason for sustainability – Guardian Events such as the Ukraine crisis and hostilities between China and Vietnam are driving home the old lesson that fossil fuels and peace don’t mix. Why doesn’t anyone do anything about the situation in Ukraine?//Advocate for structural change; increase energy efficiency; decrease usage and people like Putin won’t get their way – at least when it comes to fossil fuels. 

China to limit carbon emissions for first time, climate adviser claims – Guardian Absolute cap to come into effect, climate adviser says on the day after US announces ambitious carbon plan. China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, will limit its total emissions for the first time by the end of this decade, according to a top government advisor. He Jiankun, chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday that an absolute cap on carbon emissions will be introduced.//Good move! But can we believe the numbers?  Where are the demonstration zones?

 New wave of drug-resistant malaria threatens millions – Guardian Scientists in south-east Asia call for pre-emptive strike in Burma jungle to contain resistant strain spreading to India and Africa.  When an intense fever overcame 50-year-old Daw Cho Cho last spring, she took the same steps as when she last had malaria.//Urbanization on the rise and fewer wetlands around those urban spaces in Southeast Asia will only exacerbate this problem.

 Saving Asia’s Farm Lands from Climate Change with Salt-resilient Rice-ADB The first harvest of salt-tolerant rice variety in Taytay, in the Philippine island of Palawan, may pave the way for local farmers to reclaim lands lost to saltwater intrusion and protect the livelihood of coastal communities.//What about the nutritional value of this new rice strain?  

 

6/4 TIANANMEN AT 25

 A Time-Lapse Map of Protests Sweeping China in 1989-ChinaFile Twenty-five years ago in the southern Chinese province of Hunan, a group of small-town high school students listening to shortwave radio heard news of a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators nearly 1,000 miles away in the capital of Beijing. Although it was late at night and pouring rain, they grabbed metal washbasins and took to the streets, clanging the pots and shouting, “There’s been a massacre!” For the next two days, they demonstrated, with factory workers joining their ranks. They handed out fliers and hung a banner in front of the town cinema showing the official government tally (later revised downwards): “300 dead, 7,000 wounded.”

 Why Tiananmen Doesn’t Disappear – Asia Unbound There are few dates in contemporary history that are as universally acknowledged as June 4, 1989, the day of the Chinese military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. Yet what is the significance of this date twenty-five years later? Certainly there is no consensus: from the Global Times to the New York Times, Tiananmen elicits vastly different understandings of what transpired then and what it means today. Yet there is value in acknowledging these different understandings of history and hopes for the future, in large part because they so clearly inform the present. Moreover, the story of Tiananmen continues to evolve. New voices are emerging that want to be heard.

 A ‘Modern-Day Knight’ Who Helped Fleeing Tiananmen Activists – NYT Chan Tat Ching, 70, is a small-business man in Hong Kong. But 25 years ago, he created a lifeline for fugitives escaping the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

 Exiled Rally Leader Says He Slipped Into China – NYT The return of Zhou Fengsuo, who helped lead the 1989 protests, came despite China’s intensified security measures on the anniversary of the crackdown.

Q. and A.: Wu’er Kaixi on Tiananmen’s Hopes and Taiwan’s Achievements – NYT The 1989 student leader discusses why he chose to live in Taiwan, how he sees its system surpassing older democracies in the West and the future of relations with Beijing.

 25 Years Later, Student Leaders Witness Freedoms Fought for in Tiananmen – NYT In Taiwan, comrades from the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China see the kind of democratic transformation they had hoped to launch at home.

Tiananmen Square, the Turning Point That Wasn’t: A Q. & A. With Nicholas Kristof – NYT  Nicholas Kristof looks back on the site of pro-Democracy protests in China 25 years ago, and on his own career.

On Tiananmen Anniversary, China’s Military Touts Its Strength – NYT As thousands elsewhere mark the 25th anniversary of the killings at Tiananmen Square, the the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the Chinese military newspaper, published an editorial calling for a stronger, more robust military posture.

 Resigned to Dreary Fate, Students Awoke as Word Spread From Beijing – NYT In the Yangtze River city of Wuhan, students cowed by repression boldly took to the streets in support of the uprising at Tiananmen Square.

 Smuggling Remembrance Into Tiananmen Square – NYT The virtual silence around the crackdown in Beijing on June 4, 1989, was pierced again this year by imaginative Chinese Internet activists.

 With Choice at Tiananmen, Student Took Road to Riches – NYT Xiao Jianhua, the leader of the official student union at Peking University in 1989, sided with the government and found wealth and favor.

Tiananmen, Forgotten – NYT My generation of young Chinese can’t afford to look back or consider the larger issues that bedevil our society.

 Q. and A.: Louisa Lim on the Pivot Point for China’s Contemporary History – NYT The author of a new book on the Tiananmen massacre argues that it was crucial to understanding today’s China.//We need to see Contemporary China as having a few pivot points – Deng Xiaoping ascendance was more critical for China today than 6/4/89 but we cannot deny the impact of the CCP buckling down and corporatizing (Red Inc.) post 1989.  Much of China’s modern security state can be derived from the 6/4/89 moment.  

 China to deport Tiananmen Square artist Guo Jian for visa fraud – Guardian Australian national arrested during clampdown on 25th anniversary of protests to be expelled after 15 days in custody. An Australian artist among scores detained by Chinese authorities around the 25th anniversary this week of the deadly suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests is to be deported for visa fraud, it was announced on Friday.

Hong Kong commemorates Tiananmen Square anniversary – in pictures – Guardian  Hong Kong is the only place on Chinese soil where large scale events to commemorate the 047 June crackdown are held – an annual evening vigil was held in Victoria Park with various commemorations and protest happening during the day. It is 25 years since the infamous military repression of the fledgling pro-democracy movement in China

Tiananmen Square: 25 years since protesters massacred by Chinese troops video report – Guardian The Tiananmen Square massacre is remembered 25 years on with commemorations in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Hundreds are believed to have died when troops opened fire on student-led protests on 3 June 1989.

 Tiananmen square protests and crackdown: 25 years on – Guardian As Beijing seeks to quell discussion of 1989, three protesters and an expert on Chinese politics discuss how the massacre has shaped today’s China, the alternative courses that the country might have taken and the prospects for political reform. Twenty-five years after the bloody military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, China is seeking to quell all discussion of the massacre by locking up, charging or harassing artists, scholars, lawyers, bloggers and relatives of victims.

 Stuart Franklin: how I photographed Tiananmen Square and ‘tank man’ – Guardian The Magnum photographer tells his story of the 1989 protests, from peaceful demonstration to bloody crackdown, the iconic ‘tank man’ and how hamburgers gave him his big break. At the start, Tiananmen Square had the atmosphere of a festival. Most people couldn’t see the hunger strikers they saw the crowds marching with banners and music being played. Lots of things were surprising about the events in Tiananamen Square, even the demonstration itself. It’s pretty rare in Chinese history for people to get together at the centre of a government square and defy the leadership.

 

CHINA

China Trade Figures Point to Weaker Domestic Demand – NYT China’s exports gained steam in May, data showed on Sunday, but an unexpected fall in imports signaled weaker domestic demand that could hurt the world’s second-largest economy.

World Bank Says China’s Growth Is on Track – NYT The country is expected to reach its target of 7.5 percent this year, but its government was urged to keep up overhauls to fix debt problems. //what looks like expansionary fiscal policy and currency weakening continue to prevail.  Looks more like the Hu/Wen government 

Rise in Chinese Factory Activity Helps Lift Asian Stocks – NYT China continues to show signs of an economic revival, raising hopes that Beijing’s measures to bolster growth are having an impact.

 China Sentences Scores in Xinjiang for Acts of Terror – NYT The accused were convicted on charges including intentional murder, arson and participating in terrorist activities, with nine people sentenced to death. Three others received

 Xinjiang Hospital Asks Staff Not to Fast During Ramadan – NYT A health department in Yinin, in far western Xinjiang, says a local hospital has asked its Muslim workers, including members of the region’s ethnic Uighur and other groups, not to skip meals during Ramadan, to prevent work accidents.//This has been happening for decades.  

Tibetan leader calls on China to end ‘repressive policies’ – Guardian Lobsang Sangay, elected leader of Tibetan ‘government in exile’, urges China to return to talks on autonomy. The elected leader of the Tibetan “government in exile”, based in India, has called on China to end “repressive policies” he blames for pushing 130 Tibetans to burn themselves alive in protests.

Twenty-nine more arrests in China amid crackdown after deadly attacks – AP Attacks since October have been blamed on extremists who are inspired by jihadi ideology and seek to overthrow Chinese rule. Chinese authorities have announced 29 more arrests in a massive crackdown in the north-western region of Xinjiang following a series of deadly attacks blamed on Islamist extremists.

 The Chinese technology companies poised to dominate the world – Guardian From PCs to smartphones, Chinese firms are outgrowing their home market and making their mark internationally. As we walked into Huawei’s offices in Shenzhen, southern China, our English guide paused for a moment. “When the FT came here, they wrote a story about how there were beds under the desks, and this meant that everyone must be working incredibly long hours,” he said. “Quite wrong.”

Ukraine Seeks Stronger China Ties – Diplomat Ukraine’s incoming government has already begun a charm offensive towards China.

To Defeat America, China Must Respect Human Rights – Diplomat China’s best path to facing its domestic and foreign challenges is to grant its people greater freedom.

The Gaokao Exam: A Tough Test for China – Diplomat Debates over the grueling pre-college exam highlight fundamental issues facing Chinese society.

Chinese Grads Shunning Government Careers? – Diplomat Apparently a career in public service has become less enticing from Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown.

A glimpse into the life of a Kunming fruit seller – GoKunming For a fruit seller in China, it’s impossible to deny that the hours and work are demanding. And yet you can judge by the smile on her face that Zheng Hui (郑慧), a fruit vendor at my favorite Guandu wet market, is a woman who loves her occupation.

Interview: Environmentalist Li Yuan – GoKunming First and foremost, Kunming native Li Yuan (李元) is a newspaper journalist. She has worked for The Spring City Evening News for 15 years as a reporter, editor and project manager. She is currently involved with the paper’s New Media Department. In addition to her formal work, Li has been engaged in a bewildering number of cultural and social issues for the last decade.

Hiking from Daju to Lugu Lake, part 1 – GoKunming Editor’s note: Adam Kritzer is a longtime Dali resident and founder of ClimbDali, a company offering guided outdoor trips and adventures in Dali and greater Yunnan. I set off with Yang Xiao of Red Rock Adventures for Lijiang, with plans to hike from Daju Town (大具) to Lugu Lake. The trip was part of a larger project to create the longest continuous hiking route in China. Thus far, a route from Xizhou to Lugu Lake — via ShaxiShuhe, and Tiger Leaping Gorge — has already been completed.Hiking from Daju to Lugu Lake, part 2 – GoKunming//Thankfully more than a few entrepreneurial eco-tourism providers are creating world-class trekking routes in Yunnan.  I returned last week from a fabulous trekking trip to Nepal wishing for Yunnan to develop trails like in the Nepali Himalaya.  In many way treks through Yunnan’s highlands are the same if not better than Nepals and there are many low hanging fruit for the right tourism developers.  Look for a new section on ExSE focusing on ecotourism in Yunnan and all of mainland Southeast Asia in the coming weeks.

 

REGION

Philippines Reports Chinese Ship Movement Around Disputed Reefs – NYT Philippine officials said Chinese ships were photographed near two areas in the South China Sea that could be used to reclaim land and build structures.

Vietnam Says Video Shows Chinese Ship Intentionally Sinking Boat – NYT Vietnam has released video of a clash at sea last month that it says shows a Chinese vessel in disputed waters intentionally ramming and sinking a smaller Vietnamese fishing boat.

What India Gets Wrong About China – Diplomat India’s misinformed attitudes about the 1962 Sino-Indian war have hampered India-China relations for decades.

Free Speech Under Attack in Southeast Asia – Diplomat Mainstream and social media are increasingly the target of state censorship in the region.

China May Build ‘Artificial Island’ in South China Sea – Diplomat The island would be used as a military base to enforce a South China Sea air-defense identification zone.

 

CAMBODIA

‘Indiana Jane’ and the Looted Temples of Koh Ker – Diplomat Cambodia has begun to see the return of national treasures looted during its Civil War.

Detained Factory Workers in Cambodia Are Released – AP A Cambodian court on Friday convicted almost two dozen factory workers and human rights activists for instigating violence during protests early this year but then released them under suspended sentences.

Released, but hardly free – Banyan THE government of Cambodia’s eternal prime minister, Hun Sen, has been waging an assault on public dissent since January 3rd. That was the day Cambodian security forces in the capital shot dead four garment workers who had been striking over the minimum wage. Mr Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has placed bans on public gatherings, driven opposition supporters from the (unfortunately named) Freedom Park, and deployed baton-wielding thugs to beat protesters and detain union leaders.

Activist Resigns Amid Charges of Fabrication – NYT The activist, Somaly Mam, left the foundation bearing her name after Newsweek and others questioned her accounts about her past as a victim of the sex trade.

Giant Development in Cambodia Hinges on Chinese Buyers – NYT  Builders of more than 1,000 condominiums in a 250-acre development underway in Phnom Penh hope to attract foreign investors, especially cash-rich Chinese.//Written by former long-time Kunminger Chris Horton.  

 

INDONESIA

The consummate diplomat: Marty Natalegawa – SEA Globe As national elections loom, Indonesia’s foreign minister talks regional diplomacy and the need for sensitivity in negotiation.Standing out from the grey-suited pack in his natty pinstripes and trademark thick-rimmed glasses, Marty Natalegawa is not your regular Southeast Asian official. Contrary to type, he has been quietly shaping the region without resorting to megaphone diplomacy.

 

MYANMAR/BURMA

The People vs. The Monks – NYT Never before have so many lay Buddhists in Myanmar pushed back against the monks.

There’s a Kind of Hush – NYT The Myanmar government has doubled down on its repression of Muslims and some scholars think it approaches genocide.

 

THAILAND

In Thailand, Growing Intolerance for Dissent Drives Many to More Authoritarian Nations – NYT Since the military coup last month, academics and activists have been driven to flee a nation once considered a liberal haven in Asia.

Critics of Thai junta warned by police over potentially divisive online posts – AP Warning comes after police tracked the IP address of an activist after he posted on Facebook calls for anti-coup protests. Thai police warned online critics of the military junta on Friday that they will be tracked down if they post political views that could incite divisiveness, the latest reminder about surveillance of social media in post-coup Thailand.

Thai junta ‘brings happiness to the people’ with parties and selfies – Guardian Government seeks to solidify its position in the face of protests following May coup. Are you in need of a pick-me-up? How about a free haircut or hot meal? A dance show by women in PVC miniskirts? Perhaps a chance to pet a pony?

Mockingjay movement: Thai protests meet the Hunger Games – in pictures – Guardian Anti-coup demonstrators are using the Mockingjay hand gesture made famous by the film The Hunger Games as a sign of resistance against the military coup in Thailand

The Thai protesters’ Hunger Games salute shows a lack of political thought | Jonathan Jones – Guardian Most films are mass entertainment, not a manual for changing the world. At least the clenched fist of Marxist revolutionaries meant something. The crowd have their arms held out in unison, each hand forming a three-finger salute. The concrete and steel architecture of power surrounds them but they are as one in their arcane gesture of freedom.

Understanding Thailand’s Coup: Past, Present and Future – Diplomat U.S.-based editors Ankit Panda and Zachary Keck speak with Serhat Ünaldi about the Thai political crisis.

Tense Times in Thailand – Diplomat Hoping to destroy the pro-Thaksin forces once and for all, the military is taking a much tougher line this time around.

Come on, get happy – Banyan A FEW days after the country’s return to despotism, a reporter asked Thailand’s new military dictator about a timetable for elections. General Prayuth Chan-ocha snapped at him, and stormed off the stage. The junta later summoned two journalists for asking “inappropriate” questions.

Thailand’s military sets out emergency measures to put its stamp on economy – Reuters Price caps on fuel, cheap loans and insurance scheme for rice farmers among urgent actions put to coup leader. The military junta running Thailand has drawn up a list of emergency measures such as price caps on fuel and loan guarantees for small firms to kick-start an economy threatened by recession after months of political turmoil.

Thai junta chief declares 15 months of ‘reforms’ before general elections – AFP General Prayuth Chan-ocha says coup necessary to restore stability to kingdom after a decade of political turmoil. Thailand’s junta chief on Friday ruled out an election in the country for at least a year to allow time for political “reforms”. He also defended the military coup after growing international alarm.

 

VIETNAM

Back to business – Banyan QUIET industry has returned to industrial parks in southern Vietnam where foreign-owned factories were looted and set alight on May 13thand the small hours of May 14th. On a June 3rd visit to several industrial parks in Binh Duong province, an epicentre of the May mayhem, machines hummed and workers could be seen peaceably zipping about on motorbikes. Lorries rolled through factory gates en route to seaports in and around nearby Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s business capital.

For One Woman, ‘Uighur-Vietnamese Days’ in China – NYT Subjected to verbal harassment after anti-Chinese rioting in Vietnam in May, Thanhtu Dao wrote that she can understand how Uighurs feel when they are blamed by Han Chinese for the violent acts of individuals from their ethnicity.

In Vietnam, Paying Communities to Preserve the Forests – NYT The country is the first in Southeast Asia to make ecosystem payments a national policy through a 2010 law that established an incentive program.//Another opportunity for Vietnam to lead the way as a regional environmental champion.  However, Vietnam still continues to exploit as much as it preserves – a major difference from China however is that Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party has seemed to have tied its political future to the quality of Vietnam’s natural environment.  

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Regional Roundup for the Week of 4.4.14

News emerged this week of protests in Maoming, Guangdong over a proposed paraxylene chemical plant, echoing similar protests that took place in Kunming last spring. Reports of police violence towards protestors as well as images of the protest and unconfirmed rumors of fatalities spread quickly on Chinese social media before being censored.

Australian and Chinese search teams announced a possible underwater signal by the “black box” flight recorder from Malaysia Airlines 370. The search for the missing plane has increased in urgency as the recorder’s batteries have a lifespan of approximately thirty days. Any surface debris that could yield clues to the plane’s disappearance would likely have drifted far from an actual crash site, thus increasing the significance of the recent underwater “ping”.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday agreed to hear the anti-corruption case filed against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, allowing her two weeks to defend herself to the court on charges that she abused power in 2011 by transferring the head of national security. Shinawatra still enjoys broad support from poor and rural areas of Thailand, as shown by a demonstration of support on Saturday outside Bangkok that drew “tens of thousands” of people.

ExSE FOCUS

Protests against chemical plant flare up in southern China | Guardian — The protests began last Sunday in the city of Maoming, where officials plan to build a chemical plant to make paraxylene, a petrochemical used to make plastic bottles and fabrics, but which can be toxic if ingested. Protests against paraxylene plants are not uncommon in China, but this one is unusual because images of police brutality on Sunday incensed many who saw them online before they were deleted by censors.

China petrochemical plant may be halted after protests | Jennifer Duggan  | Guardian — Following protests that resulted in clashes between demonstrators and police, officials in a city in southern China have said plans for a controversial petrochemical plant will not go ahead if the majority of the city’s residents object.

Maoming Protests Continue in Southern China | Diplomat — The protests have also spread geographically, branching out to other cities in Guangdong. Following Tuesday’s protest in Guangzhou (the capital of Guangdong province), around 20 protestors gathered in Shenzhen on Thursday to protest the PX plant. South China Morning Post reported that the Shenzhen protestors were “taken away by police” after about 10 minutes.

MH370: possible black box ‘pings’ spur on search for missing airliner | Guardian — Australian and Chinese vessels have both picked up acoustic “pings” that could be from the black box of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, search officials have announced.

Thais Rally in Support of Beleaguered Prime Minister | NYT — The government supporters said they were prepared to thwart any move to dismiss Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who faces mounting legal cases that could lead to her removal from office in coming weeks.

Thai Protesters Rally, Reviving Drive Against Leaders | NYT — After a lull, critics of Thailand’s prime minister marched in Bangkok, seeking to force her out.

Leader of China Aims at Military With Graft Case | NYT — China charged Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan with financial crimes and abuse of power in a case seen as part of an effort to tighten the party’s control over the military.

Philippines and China in Dispute Over Reef | NYT — China accused the Philippines of illegally occupying its territory after a Philippine vessel resupplied a ship that has been stranded on a tiny reef for 15 years.

Vietnam and Cambodia tell Laos to stop $3.5bn Mekong River dam project | Guardian — Vietnam urged Laos to halt construction of a $3.5bn (£2.2bn) hydropower dam on Mekong River pending further study, environmental activists said on Friday.

Growing up in rural Yunnan: Tony’s story | GoKunming — Meet Tony. Right now, he is an eighth grade student at Dachaoshan Middle School in one of the poorest areas in Yunnan. Despite his mother’s suicide, his father’s severe alcoholism, his poor household, his lack of fluent Mandarin and the smoky coal stove next to the bed he shares with his grandmother, Tony works hard every single day for a better future.

Yunnan governor reaches out to Bangladesh | GoKunming — The governor of Yunnan has been busily visiting nearby countries in an effort to increase international business conducted in the province. Most recently, Li Jiheng (李纪恒) traveled to Bangladesh to meet leaders there and urge them to use Yunnan as a gateway to Chinese commerce and investment while also pushing a long-proposed trade scheme.

CHINA

China seizes $US14.5bn assets linked to ex-spy chief Zhou Yongkang – report | Guardian — Chinese authorities have seized assets worth at least 90bn yuan ($US14.5bn) from family members and associates of retired domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is at the centre of China’s biggest corruption scandal in more than six decades, two sources said.

China’s Former Leaders Tell Xi To Halt Anti-Corruption Campaign | Diplomat — Former Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao are reportedly pushing for an end to Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign.

Chinese Regulator to Conduct Stress Tests | NYT — After an increase in bad loans last year, the China Banking Regulatory Commission notified banks of the tests, though it did not reveal details on how they would be conducted.

DealBook: A Muddy Tract Now, but by 2020, China’s Answer to Wall St. | NYT — A largely empty expanse in Shenzhen is the setting for a financial experiment that could have a huge impact on the world’s second-largest economy. But so far it is just a bold blueprint.

China Extends Tax Break Program to Spur Economy | NYT — China’s cabinet decided to continue the breaks for small and very small enterprises through 2016 and said it was considering significantly broadening them.

Junk Bond Default a Sign Of China’s Slowing Growth | NYT — A construction materials maker was unable to meet interest payments on bonds in the latest sign that slowing economic growth is hurting companies and investors.

China’s Air Pollution Reporting is Misleading | ChinaFile — China’s air pollution is being reported in a misleading way, blocking public understanding and enabling official inaction […] Based on the qualitative assessment scale in the Ambient Air Quality Index Technical Regulations,   “moderately polluted” cities can officially report up to 365 days of “excellent or good” air quality.

Chinese Billionaire’s Trial Scrutinized for Links to Ex-Official | NYT — Analysts say the trial of Liu Han is an outgrowth of efforts to investigate an even bigger target, who ran the domestic security apparatus for a decade.

Gay Activist Sues the Chinese Government for Defamation | Diplomat — Xiang Xiaohan filed suit after the Hunan government refused to register his LGBT organization.

REGION

Hunt for Jet’s Black Boxes Is a Race Against Time | NYT — Only days are left before the batteries on the flight data and cockpit voice recorders on the missing Malaysia Airlines jet are set to die.

Chinese Travel Agencies Write Off Malaysia | Diplomat — Two Chinese online ticketing websites, eLong and LY.com announced that they would “stop booking flights by Malaysia Airlines indefinitely starting from March 27 – till it reaches agreement with the families of passengers on board MH370.” Several other agencies have followed suit, according to Times of India.

More than 100,000 protesters rally in Taiwan against trade pact with China | Guardian — More than 100,000 protesters took to the streets of Taiwan’s capital on Sunday as a two-week-long campaign against a trade pact with China gathered steam, piling further pressure on the island’s leader.

Burmese-Thai Border Trade Increases Through Myawaddy | Irrawaddy — The volume of trade through the busiest crossing on Burma’s border with Thailand is rising, according to the Karen State chief Minister, who predicted an increasing flow of goods as cross-border links improve.

Affluent Wine Buyers in Asia Find Their Confidence | NYT — An adventurous and increasingly educated crowd is fueling a boom in fine wines in China and elsewhere in Asia, though prices have come down.

Beijing’s Arctic Play: Just the Tip of the Iceberg | Diplomat — China has clearly signaled that it has a strong interest in the Arctic region.

Asia’s Next BRICS? | Diplomat — As growth in the BRICS slows, many of the new economic stars are from the Asia-Pacific.

CAMBODIA

World Briefing: Cambodia: Illness Spreads at Factories | NYT — Scores of garment workers have fallen sick this week at factories in Cambodia, including two that produce clothing for the sportswear groups Puma and Adidas, workers and the companies said Thursday.

World Briefing: Cambodia: Protest Rally Thwarted | NYT — Police officers on Monday beat antigovernment protesters who defied a ban on public demonstrations to demand a license for what would be Cambodia’s first opposition television channel.

Holy activism | SEA Globe — “A bundle of sticks can’t be broken,” according to an old Cambodian proverb. It is a philosophy that underpins a network of media-savvy monks who defy the authorities by speaking out against social injustice.

INDONESIA

Indonesia’s elections: Democracy’s big bang | Economist — As organized human efforts go, it is a big one. Nearly 190m Indonesians out of a population of about 250m are eligible to go to the polls on April 9th to elect a new parliament.

The Fight to Save Indonesia’s Forests | Diplomat — Indigenous Dayak communities are in a battle to preserve ancestral forests.

World Briefing: Indonesia: Payment Spares Maid in Saudi Arabia | NYT — Indonesia has agreed to pay $1.8 million to prevent one of its citizens from being executed in Saudi Arabia, just days before she was to be beheaded for killing her employer.

MALAYSIA

Transcript From Lost Jet Is Released By Malaysia | NYT — The dialogue covers 54 minutes, from just before Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 left Kuala Lumpur to the last contact the pilots had with air traffic personnel.

Chinese tourist and hotel receptionist kidnapped in Malaysia | Guardian — Six men armed with pistols are said to have raided the Singamata Reef resort late on Wednesday before fleeing in a speedboat. A police report said the Chinese victim was a 28-year-old woman from Shanghai, while the receptionist was a 40-year-old woman from the Philippines.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Religious Tensions Cloud Myanmar Census | NYT — The nationwide count has been criticized because the government has denied members of a long-persecuted Muslim minority the right to identify themselves as Rohingya.

Burma census: Rohingya anger at snub video | Guardian — Burma’s first census in over 30 years has been overshadowed by disputes centring on ethnicity. The country’s minority Rohingya Muslims have expressed their grief at not being allowed to classify themselves as ‘Rohingya’ on census forms, while Buddhists in Rakhine state threatened to boycott the census if the term was permitted.

Total Breakdown in Myanmar’s Arakan State | CFR — Over the weekend, according to Radio Free Asia and other news reports, nearly all international aid groups operating in western Myanmar’s Arakan, or Rakhine, State, fled the state capital or hid in police stations and other (supposedly) secure locations. They had to flee or hide as mobs of angry Arakanese Buddhists attacked several aid workers, and threatened many other offices of international aid agencies.

Myanmar’s “E-Libraries” Bring Students Up to Speed After Military Rule | Diplomat — After years of isolation under strict military rule, students at the University of Yangon and University of Mandalay will now have uncensored access to a wide range of learning materials.

PHILIPPINES

Philippines stands by rejection of Beijing’s claims to South China Sea | Guardian — The Philippine president has defended his country’s arbitration case against China’s sweeping territorial claims over the oil-rich South China Sea. Benigno Aquino III said the intention was peacefully to protect his nation’s territory and sovereignty, rather than to provoke Beijing.

THAILAND

In Thailand, Some Foresee a Coup by Legal Means | NYT — Several judges and officials involved in cases against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government have had antagonistic relationships with her party.

Second world war bomb kills seven in Bangkok | Guardian — Workers at a scrapyard in Thailand’s capital accidentally detonated a large bomb believed to have been dropped during the second world war, killing at least seven people and injuring 19 others, police said.

Thailand’s Deadly Highways | Diplomat — Nearly 50 people die each day in road accidents during Thailand’s two most popular festivals.

VIETNAM

Competition Intensifies in Vietnam’s Aviation Sector | NYT — The private VietJet Air is making a strong push just as Vietnam Airlines, the state flag carrier, plans a long-awaited initial public offering.

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Regional Roundup for the Week of 3.29.14

Links this week include updates on the search for Malaysia Airlines 370, ramped-up concerns on pollution in China, and continued political unrest in Bangkok in anticipation of a renewed rallies and protests this weekend.

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia made a statement on Monday announcing that according to satellite data from British company Inmarsat, Malaysia Airlines 370 crashed into the South Indian Ocean with no possibility of survival. Search teams from six countries have continued to look for fragments of debris and definitive answers to where the crash occurred but inclement weather has complicated exploration of already slim leads. With the search still continuing, media coverage has shifted to increasing analysis of how Malaysia’s government has handled the disaster and seemingly mismanaged cooperation with China and the United States.

Reports also emerged of the detention in Thailand of 189 refugees presumed to be ethnic Uighurs fleeing from China, which follows a March 14 raid on another camp that netted 220 refugees also assumed to be from China.

ExSE FOCUS

Search for Lost Jet Is Complicated by Geopolitics and Rivalries | NYT — While the United States, China and others have collaborated in the search for the Malaysian plane, each in its own way has been hesitant to reveal the extent of its surveillance abilities.

MH370: 122 objects spotted in Indian Ocean are ‘most credible lead yet’ | Guardian — Satellite imagery showing more than 122 possible objects floating in a patch of the southern Indian Ocean offers the most credible lead yet in the hunt for the missing Malaysian airliner, the country’s transport minister has said.

Jet Fell Into Ocean With All Lost, Premier Says | NYT — Based on analysis of satellite data, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia said there was no longer any doubt that the plane flew south into remote waters and could not have landed safely.

Thais Detain More Migrants Believed to Be Ethnic Uighurs | NYT — The move brings to 409 the number of people stopped by Thailand this month who are believed to be ethnic Uighurs fleeing China.

A Small Step Forward for ASEAN LGBT Rights | Diplomat — LGBT activists face a tough battle winning acceptance in Southeast Asia, but there are some modest signs of change.

Climate Change Darkens Life in China | ChinaFile — Asia faces a worsening water crisis, according to a leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Government looking to step up supervision of Erhai | GoKunming — Yunnan’s top legislative body is considering the overhaul of long-standing laws governing development of one the province’s premier tourist destinations. Yunnan Standing Committee members are currently holding deliberations on a bill that could expand provincial-level oversight of how Erhai Lake (洱海) and its surrounding watershed are managed.

Kyaukphyu Plan ‘Lacks Purpose’ If China Pipeline Problems Persist | Irrawaddy — Problems afflicting the oil and gas pipelines built by China through Burma could jeopardize the development of a special economic zone (SEZ) around Kyaukphyu on the Arakan State coast, an economist said. Energy industry reports say the natural gas pipeline stretching from Kyaukphyu to China’s Yunnan Province is operating at less than 20 percent of its capacity, five months after it was declared operational by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

CHINA

Most Chinese Cities Fail Minimum Air Quality Standards, Study Says | NYT — Only three of 74 cities monitored managed to meet standards set by the government, with most of the polluted cities in northern China.

On Visit to China, Michelle Obama Eases In Some Political Messages | NYT — What seemed to start as a spring break holiday for the first lady has turned out to be far more substantive than what the cheerful advocate of fitness and healthful eating often displays at home.

Editor Leaves Bloomberg, Citing China Coverage | NYT — Ben Richardson, an editor for Bloomberg News in China, is critical of the way the news agency handled an investigative article that explored the financial ties of the families of top Chinese leaders.

Fissures in China’s Ethnic Policy | NYT — A spying incident at the United Nations by a representative of a group tied to the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department has cast a spotlight on a turf war over ethnic policy, scholars said.

The Politics of China’s Urbanization | Diplomat — Large-scale urbanization is an economic necessity for China, but a political risk for the Chinese Communist Party.

China’s Shadow Banking Malaise | NYT — A severe slowdown in China’s economy would have a modest ripple effect, particularly on global commodity prices, but would not provoke a global crisis, two economists write.

Tracking China’s Hot Money Flows Through Commodities | Diplomat — The issue of misinvoicing of exports and imports can be tracked for commodities.

Wealthy Chinese Snatch Up US Investor Visas | Diplomat — Chinese investors have established a virtual monopoly on a U.S. visa program that offers green cards in exchange for investment.

Expressing the Chinese Dream | Diplomat — Imagery and ideograms in the “Chinese Dream” campaign posters send a message to an increasingly pluralized society.

Tigers slaughtered in show of social stature for Guangdong businessmen | Guardian — More than 10 tigers have been killed as “visual feasts” in China to entertain officials and rich business people, state media reported.

China Reports Gains in Fighting Tuberculosis | NYT — Evidence that a relatively low-tech strategy for combating the disease can work well, if it is rigorously applied.

Closed Doors and Quiet Times in China’s Sin City | NYT — At the Dongguan Exhibition International Hotel, a karaoke club and a sauna are closed until further notice, markers of a crackdown on vice across the city known as China’s sex capital.

REGION

China’s Criticism Over Handling of Missing Flight Stirs Malaysian Backlash | NYT — Many on social media in Malaysia have denounced China this week, noting that Malaysians as well as Chinese died on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Search for Missing Jet Is Moved Nearly 700 Miles, Based on Radar Analysis | NYT — The revision of the search area, based on further analysis by an international team working with Malaysian officials, means that Australia is redirecting the search far from the floating objects seen in the previous search area.

New Satellite Images Said to Be ‘Credible Lead’ in Malaysia Jet Hunt | NYT — Malaysia’s defense minister said satellite images taken Sunday showed 122 objects floating southwest of Australia.

Is a Philippine-Vietnam Alliance in the Making? | Diplomat — Trends indicate that cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam is expanding, but is an alliance on the horizon?

CAMBODIA

After the storm | SEA Globe — Cambodia’s health system struggles to cope with a high incidence of mental disorders – a festering legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Hidden habitat | SEA Globe — We’re in the depths of the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, a watery 213-square-kilometre refuge to more than 200 bird and reptile species, and one of Cambodia’s best-preserved tracts of wilderness. The sanctuary sits at the northwestern edge of the Tonle Sap lake […] which yields more than half of all the fish caught in Cambodia, is Southeast Asia’s largest and a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.

INDONESIA

Indonesia Candidate Tied to Human Rights Abuses Stirs Unease | NYT — Prabowo Subianto, an ex-special forces commander accused of torture and abductions, has announced his candidacy for president, putting the Obama administration in a difficult position.

LAOS

Laos, south-east Asia’s new emerging economy | Guardian — Laos has long been seen as a poor, landlocked, sparsely populated country. But it is at last emerging from its isolation. Once a part of French Indochina, ranking as the poor relation among its neighbours, it is now shaping up as a new contender in south-east Asia, with growth slated to exceed 8% this year, the highest in the region.

Sex Trafficking Victims Go Unnoticed in Laos | Diplomat — There is little assistance available to the many victims of sex trafficking in Laos.

MALAYSIA

Obama’s Upcoming Trip to Malaysia: Going to Be Prickly and Tough | Diplomat — The recent reality in Malaysia is at odds with the White House narrative.

Can Malaysia Restore Its Public Image? | CFRThe Malaysian government probably has done more over the past week to undermine the international image of Malaysia than anyone else in the country’s nearly sixty years as an independent nation. Asia Unbound —

MYANMAR/BURMA

Shine’s Off the Apple as Burma Govt Marks Three Years | Irrawaddy — President Thein Sein’s speech to Parliament this week, marking the third anniversary of his government, received a lukewarm reception among the Burmese public, adding to indications that doubts are growing over the direction and substance of the country’s reform process.

Burma Awards Offshore Oil and Gas Deals to Foreign Firms | Irrawaddy — Burma’s Ministry of Energy on Wednesday announced that it has awarded international firms, mostly from Western nations, 20 areas in its waters to explore for oil and gas.

PHILIPPINES

World Briefing: The Philippines: Peace Accord Is Signed | NYT — The Philippine government signed a peace accord with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, on Thursday, the culmination of years of negotiations.

SINGAPORE

Singapore Criminalizes Cyber Bullying and Stalking | Diplomat — Concerns have been raised over how the law will be interpreted for journalists and those critical of the government.

THAILAND

Grenade Attack on Thai Anti-Graft Office Ahead of PM Hearing | Irrawaddy — Grenades were thrown at the offices of Thailand’s anti-corruption agency, which has summoned the prime minister to answer charges of dereliction of duty next week, as protesters trying to oust her prepared for a big weekend rally. Nobody was injured in the overnight attack, the second on the agency’s offices this week, police said on Friday.

Redshirts in Isan, north-east Thailand, keep faith with benefactor Thaksin | Guardian — Rural minority support the return of the exiled former prime minister, who improved their standard of living.

Thai villagers pan for gold  in pictures | Guardian — Villagers from Wang Nuea in northern Thailand look for gold in the river every year during the dry season. They can make about $15 a day, though two years ago they reached $200 in a single day when the river level dropped more than usual.

VIETNAM

Vietnamese guards brave attack to reverse destruction of the forest | Guardian — Vietnam’s remote forests have finally come to the attention of ecologists, but efforts to protect wildlife and people risk being stymied by the habits and hardship of poachers and loggers.

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Regional Roundup for the Week of 3.23.14

“The search continued this week for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, with minimal leads and conflicting reports increasing frustration among relatives of the missing passengers. The current search has shifted to focus on a swath of the southern Indian Ocean where Australian and Chinese searchers spotted debris, however inclement weather prevented confirmation that they were the remains of MU370. Malaysia’s handling of the incident has sparked strong criticism for a lack of transparency to both the public and to countries partnering in the search for the missing plane.

Details also emerged this week of extensive NSA hacking into Huawei servers in order to gain access to both computer and telephone networks, escalating tensions over cyber espionage between the United States and China. Michelle Obama is visiting China for a weeklong visit that is expected to focus on education and away from political topics, while President Obama is scheduled to meet with Xi Jinping at the Hague to discuss Russia and Ukraine.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court voided the results of February elections because of incomplete polling but did not indicate when another election might be held, raising the possibility of fresh protests in Bangkok that had waned since the election.

ExSE  FOCUS

Retracing a Lost Flight: A Routine Flight, Till Both Routine and Flight Vanish | NYT — As the search stretches on, authorities look back at the data for clues of the plane’s whereabouts.

MH370: Chinese satellite spots potential debris | Guardian — A Chinese satellite has made a fresh sighting of potential debris from the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 floating in the southern Indian Ocean, with ships being sent urgently to investigate.

Plane Debris Would Be Modest Clue Two Weeks After a Crash, Experts Say | NYT — If searchers spotted floating debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet in the ocean, it would be more dispersed and farther from the wreckage sunk beneath the waves, experts said.

Flight MH370 Shows Limits of ASEAN’s Maritime Cooperation | Diplomat — The limits of regional Search and Rescue cooperation were evident following the disappearance of MH370.

Thai Court Voids Election, Adding to Turmoil | NYT — The Constitutional Court said the election was invalid because voting was not held across the country on the same day, as required by the Thai Constitution.

Politics Won’t Be on First Lady’s China Itinerary, Aides Say| NYT — The White House is billing Michelle Obama’s visit as a cultural exchange, but political overtones will be almost impossible to avoid.

N.S.A. Breached Chinese Servers Seen as Security Threat | NYT — As the United States made a public case about the dangers of buying from Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, classified documents show that the National Security Agency was creating its own back doors — directly into Huawei’s networks.

Surging ASEAN Trade Prompts Banking Realignment | Diplomat — Major banks are realigning their businesses in Southeast Asia, where a winding back of cross-border tariffs and regulations has led to sharp rise in regional trade ahead of the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

Turkestan Islamic Party Expresses Support for Kunming Attack | Diplomat — In an online video, TIP’s leader praised the deadly attack in Kunming and promised further violence.

Suspected Uyghurs Rescued in Thai Raid of Human Trafficking Camp | Diplomat — 200 refugees rumored to be Chinese Uyghurs were rescued from a human trafficking camp in Thailand last week.

Uyghurs Test ASEAN’s Refugee Credentials | Diplomat — Despite facing religious and ethnic discrimination in China, Uyghur refugees are often sent back.

Thousands to March for Termination of Burma’s Myitsone Dam | Irrawaddy — Thousands of protesters are expected to join a march from Rangoon to the site of the proposed Myitsone dam in Kachin State, calling for the Burma government to permanently cancel the project.

CHINA

Developer’s Collapse Adds to China Concerns | NYT — Weak housing prices for February contribute to signs that a slowdown in China’s property sector could represent a systemic risk to the economy.

The World Needs China’s Leadership | Diplomat — A more stable and prosperous world necessitates a China that’s more active and assertive in global affairs.

China Releases Plan to Incorporate Farmers Into Cities | NYT — An ambitious government blueprint is the country’s first attempt to broadly coordinate the introduction of hundreds of millions of rural residents into cities.

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright | SEA Globe — The greatest unsolved mystery in China right now is not the disappearance of Malaysian airliner MH370 but the fate of Zhou Yongkang, the feared former head of China’s security apparatus. From 2007 to 2012 a member of China’s top political body, the Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou is now reportedly under investigation for corruption, casting suspicion on hundreds, if not thousands, of his of his allies, subordinates, and relatives.

China’s Central Bank Allows Its Currency More Volatility | NYT — The bank doubled the amount by which the renminbi would be permitted to rise or fall each day, making it more responsive to market forces.

Xi Jinping and Social Media: Harnessing the People’s Voice | Diplomat — China’s president uses social media to attract public support, while cracking down on social media users.

Obama will meet Xi Jinping of China in attempt to isolate Russia over Ukraine | Guardian — White House extends president’s overseas schedule as adviser Rice says ‘US is leading … in supporting government of Ukraine’

Baucus in Beijing: New Ambassador, Same Priorities | Diplomat — Max Baucus is the latest in a string of trade-oriented U.S. Ambassadors to China.

Is China Underfunding its ‘War on Pollution’? | SEA Globe — China’s environmental spending showed a year-on-year drop of almost ten percent in 2013, according to the budget report delivered at China’s annual parliamentary gathering.

REGION

As Malaysia Goes Its Own Way Over Missing Jet, China Finds Limits to Power | NYT — Within China, relatives and friends of the passengers press for answers, but the government finds itself helpless as Malaysia takes the lead in the investigation.

Nations Start to Collaborate in the Search | NYT — The expansion of the multinational operation off the western coast of Australia illustrates how the hunt for the Malaysia Airlines plane has helped dampen regional tensions.

Ripple effect | SEA Globe — The tightening of the US Federal Reserve’s monetary policy will confront Asean member states with tougher financing conditions and lower capital inflows, putting growth prospects at risk.

Could Flight 370 Damage China-Malaysia Relations? | Diplomat — Frustrations in China towards Malaysia’s handling of the search and rescue mission could spill over to affect ties.

China’s Newest Maritime Dispute | Diplomat — China’s hardly in need of more territorial disputes with neighbors. Yet, it has started a new one with Indonesia.

What Flight MH370 Tells Us About the US in Asia | Diplomat — In the wake of a terrible tragedy, the U.S. is proving why it is indispensable to the Asia-Pacific region.

Malaysian Firms Eye Construction Prospects in Burma | Irrawaddy — With its companies doing over US$1.6 billion worth of business in Burma, Malaysia was ranked as the seventh-biggest source of foreign investment into the country by the end of January 2014.

CAMBODIA

Top 10 books about Cambodia | Guardian — From a portrait of Pol Pot to a collection of ancient oral tales, here are 10 titles essential to understanding the Asian nation.

Pushing the boundaries | SEA Globe — Thy Sovantha was born in 1995, the year after Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy left his post as finance minister to start his own political party. Almost two decades later, Sovantha, whose personal Facebook page has more than 215,000 followers and counting, is an entirely new political entity: a young woman with huge support in a country where politics is the realm of old men.

INDONESIA

Indonesia’s forest fires feed ‘brown cloud’ of pollution choking Asia’s cities | Guardian — An acrid blanket of haze is hanging over the cities of south-east Asia, where 700,000 people a year die prematurely from the effects of air pollution. Industry and climate change are being blamed, but governments are slow to act.

Indonesia: A Legal Plot to Thwart Corruption Fight | Diplomat — Legislators try to hobble the country’s popular anti-corruption body.

Battle for lashes | SEA Globe — The price of Western beauty may be too high for the 100,000 workers who toil in central Java’s lucrative false-eyelash industry.

MALAYSIA

George Town Memo: Malaysia’s Deep Political Rifts Exposed Amid Mystery of Missing Flight | NYT — Malaysia’s opposition leaders have strongly criticized the government for focusing public attention on Flight 370’s pilot, an opposition supporter.

The Lede: Malaysian Opposition Leader Calls Speculation About Pilot of Missing Jet ‘Absurd’ | NYT — Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, dismissed speculation that the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, a supporter of his movement for democratic change, might have hijacked the plane for political reasons, in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News on Friday.

Pilots’ Possible Role in Flight 370 Vanishing ‘Unthinkable’ to Friends | NYT — The two men at the controls of Flight 370 led ordinary lives that revolved around family and flying, those who knew them said.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Burma’s homosexuality law ‘undermining HIV and Aids fight’ | Guardian — A law criminalising “unnatural” sex is reinforcing the stigma that leaves gay men in Burma hidden, silenced and shamed, hindering efforts to contain HIV/Aids, claim experts and activists.

Myanmar: The Worsening Plight of the Rohingya | Diplomat — It has been a tragic start to the year for Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority.

Myanmar Fighting a Losing Battle Against Opium Addiction | Diplomat — Myanmar, formerly the world’s largest opium producer, is experiencing a resurgence in poppy cultivation as the government seeks truces with rebel groups. In opium-growing areas, such as the village of Nampakta, officials estimate that half of the population is addicted.

Burma’s Marine Eden Braces for Tourism | Irrawaddy — The Mergui archipelago has been called the “Lost World,” but outsiders have found it—first fishermen, poachers and loggers, and now developers and high-end tourists. The people losing this world are the Moken, who have lived off the land and the sea for centuries.

PHILIPPINES

Communist Party Chief Held in Philippines | NYT — Philippine security forces arrested the chairman of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and his wife on Saturday, the military said, dealing the biggest blow in years to the decades-old rebel group.

Eyewitness: Luzon Island, Philippines | Guardian — Photographs from the Guardian Eyewitness series

SINGAPORE

Seeing red | SEA Globe — Eager collectors and rabid critics ate up Art Stage Singapore 2014, bolstering the city-state’s presence on the global art radar.

THAILAND

Thailand to stage fresh elections after court rules February poll invalid | Guardian — Thailand’s constitutional court has ruled that a general election held in February was invalid, setting the stage for a new vote and further deepening the country’s political crisis.

Thailand needs friends to help it through its crisis | Jonathan Prentice | Guardian — Thailand faces truly existential challenges. It is riven by social, economic, ideological and regional divisions. Resignation seems to give way only to heightened extremism; vituperative intolerance has damaged any prospect of talks. Outside powers should not misinterpret a lull in the streets as progress. Without a concerted attempt to alter course, Thailand remains at risk of tipping into violent confrontation.

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Regional Roundup for the week of 3.16.14

The big topic this week was the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Saturday. What initially appeared to be simply a tragic accident has shifted to an investigation into a  much more complicated incident after it emerged that crucial communication devices on the plane appeared to be intentionally disabled, and that the plane may have flown for hours after its last contact. Search efforts are still underway 10 days after the plane disappeared, involving nearly twelve countries in the Southeast Asian region and extending well into the southern Indian Ocean.

Malaysian authorities have faced intense criticism over their perceived lack of transparency regarding the investigation and for conflicting statements about the plane’s disappearance. One of the strongest critics has been China, with Chinese citizens comprising two-thirds of the passengers and frustration mounting amongst their families waiting for news.

ExSE FOCUS

Flight MH370: Malaysia asks for help as search for missing plane continues | Guardian — Malaysian officials have requested official assistance from more than a dozen countries in south-east and south Asia in a desperate bid to find missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, after new satellite data indicated the aircraft flew on for hours after it last made contact with civilian radar.

Series of Errors by Malaysia Mounts, Complicating the Task of Finding Flight 370 | NYT — A week after the plane disappeared, the trail is even colder as the search now sprawls from the snowy peaks of the Himalayas to the empty expanses of the southern Indian Ocean.

If MH370 crashed in southern Indian Ocean it wouldn’t be seen or heard | Guardian — The empty expanse of water is one of the most remote places in the world and also one of the deepest, posing potentially enormous challenges for the international search effort focusing on the area, one of several possible crash sites.

Malaysian Prime Minister’s Statement on Flight 370 Investigation | NYT — The text of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s statement Saturday.

Amid Search for Plane, Malaysian Leaders Face Rare Scrutiny | NYT — Worldwide bafflement at the disappearance of an airplane has challenged Malaysia’s paternalistic political culture and exposed its elite to withering judgments.

Lincang Journal: Communism Is the Goal at a Commune, but Chinese Officials Are Not Impressed | NYT — A utopian farming commune in Yunnan Province probably would have pleased Chairman Mao, but the Communist Party has never had much tolerance for independent groups, and the community faces a campaign of intimidation.

220 Are Detained in Raid on a Thai Jungle Camp | NYT — Those arrested are thought to be Uighurs, a Turkic people from western China who have suffered repression from the ethnic Han who rule China.

A Marketplace Dispute in Central China Turns Deadly | NYT — News reports said a dispute between two food vendors in Changsha escalated, leaving five people stabbed to death and one man shot and killed by the police. /Reports popped up in western media outlets late Friday morning as well as two small articles on the Xinhua homepage which were quickly scrubbed by early afternoon./

China’s Sudden WeChat Crackdown | Diplomat — A sudden censorship crackdown on popular social media app WeChat has Chinese netizens in a bind.

For Myanmar Muslim Minority, No Escape From Brutality | NYT — Rohingya Muslims, denied citizenship in Myanmar, pass through Thailand on their way to relative safety in Malaysia or, if they cannot afford to pay unscrupulous brokers, languish there.

CHINA

News Analysis: China Torn Between Policies and Partnership | NYT — China is struggling to find a neutral diplomatic position over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

China’s Hard Line: ‘No Room for Compromise’ | NYT — Wang Yi took a strong stand Saturday on China’s territorial disputes, saying it will “never accept unreasonable demands from smaller countries.”

Its Growth Targets Elusive, China Focuses on Jobs and Quality of Life | NYT — As China’s leader emphasized quality of economic growth over a set target, the government reported poor performance in areas like industrial output during January and February.

China’s Central Bank Allows Its Currency More Volatility | NYT — The bank doubled the amount by which the renminbi would be permitted to rise or fall each day, making it more responsive to market forces.

China Details Plans to Liberalize Interest Rates and Encourage Private Banks | NYT — Analysts welcomed the announcements, which signaled progress in a far-ranging plan of overhauls designed to modernize the country’s financial system.

China Puts a Stop to Plans for Virtual Credit Cards | NYT — China’s central bank said it wanted to assess the risks that customers could face using the untested services from the online giants Alibaba and Tencent.

For Foreign Journalists in Beijing, It’s All About Asking the Right Question | NYT — A news conference with the Chinese prime minister and foreign journalists each year is broadcast worldwide, but is actually staged, with the complicity of many of the largest news organizations in Western journalism.

Why Do Men Dominate Chinese Politics? Because They’re ‘Just Too Superb’ | NYT — The National People’s Congress has slightly more women than in previous sessions, but women still remain a rarity at the top levels of Chinese politics. This gender gap might be due to a “quality” issue, some female delegates said.

The United States of China | NYT — Federalism’s biggest benefit for China is its promise to address the concerns of restive minority regions.

N.B.A. Looks to Asia for Next Growth Spurt | NYT — With China as the big revenue prize, the National Basketball Association is steadily stoking interest and wooing fans across the region.

REGION

U.S. Takes Back Seat in Malaysian Jet Inquiry | NYT — Some of the world’s foremost experts on crash investigations are in Kuala Lumpur, but technically only to assist the Malaysian government, and they are saying nothing.

The X Factors: How Third Parties Destabilize US-China Relations | Diplomat — Third party actors such as the Philippines, Japan, and North Korea have the biggest potential to upset US-China ties.

Second Thomas Shoal Tensions Intensify | Diplomat — The Philippines, China, and the U.S. are upping a war of words over Beijing’s blocking of Filipino civilian vessels.

Asia-Pacific countries failing to stop forest loss, UN warns | Guardian — Region losing 2m hectares of forest and grasslands every year, with area the size of India and Burma together requiring restoration.

Can India Catch Up With China in Myanmar? | Diplomat — China has a powerful economic presence, but India has some historical and institutional strengths.

Australian journalist faces jail after refugee report angers Thai navy | Guardian — Alan Morison and Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian face defamation charges for reporting alleged abuse and human trafficking.

CAMBODIA

In Cambodia, Voicing the Struggle | NYT — Mam Sonando, described by his supporters as Cambodia’s only truly independent radio broadcaster, says he is fighting to “protect people who have been victimized.”

INDONESIA

Governor of Jakarta Receives His Party’s Nod for President | NYT — The move by the party of Joko Widodo, who has become a political phenomenon, ended speculation over whether the party chairwoman would stand in his way.

LAOS

Vanished: Laotian development worker still missing after more than a year | Guardian — Family and colleagues believe Sombath Somphone was forcibly detained, joining ranks of others taken in ‘forced disappearance’.

Wife remembers Sombath Somphone, 15 months after he was seized in Laos – video | Guardian — Singaporean national and Unicef representative Shui Meng Ng speaks to Amnesty International about her husband Sombath Somphone, who was forcibly disappeared in Laos.

MALAYSIA

Malaysia Officials Open Criminal Inquiry Into Missing Jet | NYT — Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a news conference that data indicated that someone took action to change the course of the plane, which traveled for seven hours after it lost contact with ground control.

Radar Suggests Jet Shifted Path More Than Once | NYT — A military radar track appeared to show that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 climbed to 45,000 feet after disappearing from civilian radar and altered its course as if still under a pilot’s command.

Jet Hunt Shifts as Findings Hint at Longer Flight | NYT — Experts were poring over military radar data that seemed to indicate that the missing Malaysian flight had turned west and stayed aloft long after its last contact with ground controllers.

Frustration Over Malaysian Flight Turns to Anger | NYT — Insults and water bottles were thrown at Malaysia Airlines staff members in Beijing over the lack of information about what has happened to Flight MH370.

False Leads Set Back Search for Malaysian Jet | NYT — Authorities widen the search area after suspected debris and an oil slick turn out to be unconnected to a Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished Saturday night.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Ban on Doctors’ Group Imperils Muslim Minority in Myanmar | NYT — The government halted the work of Doctors Without Borders after some officials accused it of favoring the Muslim Rohingya over Buddhists.

International Education: Education Programs Try to Close Gaps in Myanmar | NYT — International programs are helping to tackle Myanmar’s shortfall in higher education and vocational training after decades of military rule.

UK urged to increase aid to Burma in bid to press home democratic gains | Guardian — As Burma sheds its pariah status after decades of military dictatorship, the international development committee (IDC) urged the Department for International Development (DfID) to step up its involvement in a country that, once among the richest in south-east Asia, is now among the poorest.

PHILIPPINES

US-Philippines Reach Deal on US Military Access | Diplomat — Manila will welcome the U.S. military back to the country after ejecting it in 1992.

THAILAND

How Thailand’s trade in fake passports fuels crime gangs around the world | Guardian — Have you ever lost your passport on holiday? The illegal trade in forged and doctored travel documents props up criminal activity all around the world: from human trafficking to terrorism

Italian’s passport used to board flight MH370 was stolen in Phuket | Guardian — The Italian national who was believed to be on flight MH370 has told Thai police that his passport went missing last year from a motorbike rental shop on the tourist island of Phuket, where hundreds of passports are thought to be lost or stolen every year in a black-market racket.

Court Deals Blow to Thai Government by Halting $62 Billion Rail Project | NYT — A transportation plan that is a centerpiece policy of the ruling government is called unconstitutional after a challenge by the opposition party.

VIETNAM

Oil slicks spotted in search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane | Guardian — Vietnam air force spots oil slicks off coast after Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 disappears with 239 people on board during flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The battle of Dien Bien Phu, 1954 – a picture from the past| Guardian — The ferocious 55-day siege of the last French stronghold in northern Indochina began on 13 March 1954. Vietnamese photographers restaged these scenes shortly after the real fighting occurred, with French casualties still lying on the battlefield.

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Regional Round Up for 3.7.2014

By far one of the biggest stories this week was the deadly knife attack that occurred the night of Saturday, March 1st at the Kunming train station. Starting with reports on Weixin and other social media sites Saturday evening, the violence has been covered extensively in both Western and Chinese media. Because of the significance of this event, East by Southeast has prepared a news digest focusing solely on the attack in addition to our regular regional round-up. The additional coverage can be found via this link.

All of us at East by Southeast express our sincere condolences to the families and friends of those directly impacted by the train station attack, as well as appreciation for the support we’ve received in the past week.

ExSE FOCUS

Blowing Away the Smog in Beijing, Politically Speaking | NYT — The annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference are underway in Beijing, and both groups are regarded by many Chinese as not truly representative of the people.

Beijing Goes Quiet on Rise of Local Security Budgets | NYT — Saying the data “is still being collected,” the Chinese Finance Ministry has declined to release figures on local security spending, a major component of a domestic security apparatus that has grown bigger than the military.

Trafficking of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims shifts to Malaysia | Guardian — Human traffickers are holding hundreds of Rohingya Muslims captive in houses in northern Malaysia, beating them, depriving them of food, and demanding a ransom from their families, according to detailed accounts by the victims.

Burma allows Médecins Sans Frontières to resume work but not in Rakhine | Guardian — Médecins Sans Frontières has been allowed to resume work in parts of Burma, but not in the strife-torn state of Rakhine, the medical aid group says.

Asian Development Bank failing in mission to protect poor and vulnerable | Guardian — According to a 180-page report released late February on a project to repair Cambodia’s rail system, ADB is not, however, adhering to its own polices and procedure in these areas. The bank’s internal watchdog, the Compliance Review Panel (CRP), said management needed to undergo a “mind-shift” in the way it deals with vulnerable populations.

CHINA

Opening day | Economist — China has opened the annual full session of its parliament, the National People’s Congress, in Beijing. If the past is any guide, the proceedings will be tightly controlled and will not feature any dramatic legislative votes during the ten-day session.

Red Lights Dim in China’s Sin City | NYT — China is in the throes of the harshest anti-vice campaign in years, and the crackdown is taking a toll on the economy of Dongguan, a southern city of more than eight million people.

China Declares ‘War Against Pollution’ | NYT — Facing growing dissatisfaction from citizens about high pollution in China, the premier, Li Keqiang, declared in his work report Wednesday that the government he leads would “declare war” on pollution.

Chinese Workers at IBM Factory on Strike Amid Company Sale | NYT — More than 1,000 workers from a Shenzhen site being sold to Lenovo took to the streets in the latest sign of growing labor activism in China

China Announces 12.2% Increase in Military Budget | NYT — China announced that it was increasing its military budget for 2014 to almost $132 billion. The expansion is being closely watched by other nations in the region and by the United States.

Home Prices in China May Hurt Families | NYT — Chinese households have an overwhelming share of their assets in their homes, and any slump in prices could lead to widespread anger, findings say.

Kashgar Journal: China Remodels an Ancient Silk Road City, and an Ethnic Rift Widens | NYT — China has razed thousands of traditional homes as it modernizes Kashgar, and the results underscore the divide between the government and the Muslim ethnic minority, the Uighurs.

China Prioritizes Ukraine’s ‘Ethnic Groups’ Over Its ‘Territorial Integrity’ | Diplomat — China has stopped voicing support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which could set a dangerous precedent.

Putin to Visit China In ‘Near Future’ | Diplomat — President Xi told Putin he is looking forward to his visit during a phone call discussing Ukraine.

Op-Docs: ‘Chinese, on the Inside’ | NYT — Catie and Kimberly were adopted from China by a couple from Maine, who attempt to pass on a culture they’ve never known firsthand. /With the departure of Ambassador Gary Locke and one commentator’s snide remark calling him a “banana”, this short documentary

The Gary Locke Effect: Does Race Matter for a US Ambassador? | Diplomat — Gary Locke, the first Chinese-American ambassador to Beijing, faced taunts and barbs because of his race.

REGION

Emerging, but No Longer a Mother Lode of Profits | NYT — Multinational corporations that crowed for years about their presence in booming emerging markets are now blaming turmoil in those regions for dents in their bottom lines.

Thai seafood industry censured over Burmese migrant’s trafficking ordeal  | Guardian — Thailand is the third-largest exporter of seafood in the world, sending nearly a billion euros (£8.2m) of fish to Europe and more than $1.5bn to the US each year. However, allegations of slavery and forced labour have dogged the sector in recent years.

China to Foreign Fishing Boats: ‘Get Out’ of South China Sea | Diplomat — Hainan’s Party Chief confirms that authorities are confronting foreign fishing vessels in the South China Sea.

Sri Lanka’s Growing Links with China | Diplomat — Trade, investment and a strategic Indian Ocean location bring the two countries closer together.

Take it to the bank | SEA Globe — Banking in Southeast Asia is a bipolar industry that reaches all manner of extremes – nearly 100% of Singaporeans over the age of 15 have a bank account, whereas less than 5% of Cambodians in the same age bracket do. Naturally, this has a lot to do with people’s incomes.

CAMBODIA

Cambodia: Challenges of Democratic Consolidation | Diplomat — Cambodia needs to press ahead with reforms to consolidate its young democracy.

Back to back, they face each other | SEA Globe — Both sides of Cambodia’s political divide need to address the concerns of voters and replace rhetoric with action

INDONESIA

‘Act of Killing’ Film Fails to Stir Indonesia | NYT — The film recounts in graphic detail the killings of an estimated 500,000 or more Indonesians during state-sponsored purges of suspected Communists and their sympathizers in 1965 and 1966.

Surabaya Journal: Pointing Fingers Over Heavy Death Toll at an Indonesian Zoo | NYT — The municipal zoo in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, where more than 100 animals have died since last summer, has drawn calls for its closing.

LAOS

Mekong mission: Impossible | SEA Globe — After last year’s fatal Lao Airlines crash, a hastily assembled local dive team was scrambled. Their story is a remarkable feat of human endurance and teamwork

MALAYSIA

Malaysia’s Anwar Convicted of Sodomy, Political Future in Doubt | Irrawaddy — A Malaysian court convicted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy and sentenced him to five years in prison on Friday, shattering his plan to take control of the country’s richest state and stoking political tension in the Southeast Asian nation following a divisive national election last year.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Rise in Bigotry Fuels Massacre Inside Myanmar | NYT — Violence against the Rohingya minority has presented a test for Myanmar’s leaders, who have done little to rein in the ethnic killings even as they pursue broad political and economic reforms.

Burmese villagers exiled from ancestral home as fate of dam remains unclear | Guardian — The Myitsone dam project lies unfinished in Kachin state, northern Burma, caught in a tug of war between the Burmese government and a powerful Chinese corporation. 12,000 Kachin villagers remain in exile as a political and military drama plays out over the fate of the dam.

Preserving Indian Heritage in Myanmar | Diplomat — Yangon was once a center for India’s independence struggle. Can the heritage be preserved?

PHILIPPINES

Filipino families destitute after typhoon Haiyan find shelter in jail | Guardian — When the typhoon came, it made short work of the prison. It ripped the roof off and dismantled some of the cells. You might have expected the prisoners to have made off into the night. But while several did take advantage of their newfound freedom, they did so only to find their destitute families and bring them back to the unusual refuge of the half-intact prison building.

Fashion designers in Philippines support communities with sustainable textiles | Guardian — While a new wave of Philippine designers use indigenous materials and social enterprise to support communities, textile innovation could also address consequences of Typhoon Haiyan

SINGAPORE

Singapore tops world’s most expensive cities list for 2014 | Guardian — Singapore kicks Tokyo from most expensive city in the world to sixth – and there are lots of other surprises

The state of the city | SEA Globe — Many of Singapore’s poorest citizens must suffer in silence due to the absence of an official poverty line and meagre government support

Sex and the Lion City | SEA Globe –Singapore, where prostitution is legal but paying for sex with a girl aged under 18 is against the law, has a thriving vice industry – despite its manicured image. According to the US’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, the island is a destination for women and girls coerced into the sex trade from countries including China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

THAILAND

Thailand’s protests: Dismantling the barricades | Economist — AT LAST it looks as though the street protests designed to oust Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, are running out of steam. After more than four months of relentless sit-ins and government shutdowns, the leader of the insurrection, Suthep Thaugsuban, has dismantled most of his various protest sites around the capital, retreating to a single encampment in central Bangkok.

Shutting down the shutdown | Economist — Fifty-three days after anti-government protesters vowed to “shut down” the world’s most-visited city in a bid to “restart” Thailand, they have been forced to quit their programme. Or perhaps rather to “minimise” its window: from the city streets to a public park in Bangkok.

VIETNAM

Vietnamese blogger jailed for two years for ‘abusing democratic freedoms’ | Guardian — A Vietnamese blogger, Truong Duy Nhat, has been sentenced to two years in prison on a charge of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state and on the legitimate rights and interests or organisations and citizens.”

Point of no return | SEA Globe — Young Vietnamese are flocking abroad to study, often leaving their homeland for good. With their acquired skills and knowledge the economy could reach new heights

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Roundup of 3.01 Train Station Attack News Coverage

In addition to our usual news digest, this week ExSE has compiled a list of articles covering the 3/1 terrorist attack at the Kunming train station. The links are ordered chronologically by publication date, and include both Western media sources and English-language Chinese state media links.

March 9

The Kunming Train Station Attack: A Hypothesis | East by Southeast — In answering the question “Why was Kunming chosen as the site of last Saturday’s attack?” consider the following […] – See more at: http://www.eastbysoutheast.com/kunming-train-station-attack-hypothesis/#comments

March 8

Xinjiang Party Secretary Talks Terrorism After Kunming Attack |Diplomat — On Thursday, Xinjiang’s Party Secretary Zhang Chunxian led the Xinjiang delegation’s meeting at the National People’s Congress in Beijing. In the wake of the deadly March 1 attack in Kunming, Zhang faced a barrage of questions about the rise of terrorism within China and the government’s response.

The two-faced stance of US on terrorists | China Daily — Many Chinese are indignant at the slow and reluctant response from the United States in condemning last Saturday’s terrorist attack at the railway station in Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province. The US’ reluctance to condemn the terrorists is obvious since neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken out and deplored the attack.

A week later, prayers, paper cranes, heightened security in Kunming | China Daily — According to Zhang Guibai, a member of the armed police in Yunnan, about 6,600 officers have been working on the investigation of the case and maintaining social stability. Police are deployed in and around public places, including parks, schools and train stations. Armed police units also have been strengthened near Yunnan’s borders with neighboring countries.

UN human rights body calls for “thorough investigation” over terrorist attack in China | Global Times — The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on Friday for “thorough investigation” over the appalling terrorist attack in Kunming, southwest China, which claimed at least 29 lives and left over a hundred others wounded.

March 7

Chinese Governor Signals Crackdown on Separatists | NYT — The remarks by the governor of Xinjiang signaled that the Communist Party would tighten security throughout the region in reaction to a knife attack that killed 29 civilians.

Chinese police arrest 45 for ‘spreading rumours’ online after knife attack | Guardian — Chinese police have arrested 45 people for “spreading rumours” online in the wake of Saturday’s horrific knife attack at a Chinese train station.

China warns influential commentators to stick to party line on Kunming attack | Daily Telegraph — Chinese police have named and threatened some of the country’s most influential journalists and commentators for questioning the party line on a terror attack in Kunming.

Terror attack: Dark day | Economist — A brutal knife attack shocks China and raises questions about its policy towards ethnic minorities

Terrorist Attacks ‘part of trend’ | Global Times — About 90 percent of violent terrorists use means such as VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to circumvent the Great Firewall and the increasing amount of terrorist attacks is part of the international trend, the top leader of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region said on Thursday.

March 6

China imposes censorship on reporting of knife attack | Guardian — After the knife attack on Chinese people in Kunming last Saturday, in which 29 people were hacked to death, the state council information office issued the following directive: “Media that report on the knife attack incident that occurred March 1 at the Kunming railway station must strictly adhere to Xinhua News Agency wire copy or information provided by local authorities.”

Implications of the Kunming Terrorist Attack | Diplomat — The Diplomat speaks with Dr. Sean Roberts about the implications of the Kunming knife attack.

Details slowly emerge in Kunming knifing investigation | GoKunming — As people across China attempt to come to terms with the deadly knife attack on civilians at Kunming’s train station, details of the tragedy are beginning to come to light. Although no clear motive has been announced, high-ranking officials have given statements detailing some actions of the group responsible for the assault. More importantly, many of those injured at the station are reported to be convalescing in local hospitals.

Don’t label terrorism as ‘ethnic’: adviser | China Daily — Cases like the deadly attack in Kunming should be handled in a way that avoids linking a terrorist assault with an “ethnic issue”. Zhu Weiqun, head of the committee on ethnic and religious affairs under China’s top political advisory body, made the remark on Wednesday in an interview with China Daily.

March 5

Chinese Officials Seek to Shift Attention From Rampage | NYT — Days after knife-wielding assailants killed 29 people and injured 143 at the train station in Kunming, Chinese authorities appeared eager to change the subject.

Attack prompts strengthened anti-terrorism legislation | China Daily — Legislators and political advisors have proposed improving legislation to counter terrorism following the deadly terrorist attack that killed 29 civilians and injured 143 others.

Opposing Narratives in Piecing Together Kunming Attackers’ Motives | NYT — Were the assailants who slashed to death 29 people and wounded 143 others at a train station in southwestern China last Saturday aspiring jihadists or would-be refugees seeking to flee the country?

China knife massacre culprits wanted to wage jihad abroad, official says | Guardian — The group behind Saturday’s gruesome knife attack at a Chinese train station turned to violence after failing to leave the country “to participate in jihad”, a senior Communist party official was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Kunming: A New Phase of Terrorism in China | Diplomat — The deadly weekend attack, which killed 29 civilians, could mark a new era for security in China.

Kunming knife gang ‘tried to leave China’ before attack | Daily Telegraph — Attackers who launched a brutal mass knifing at a Chinese train station acted in desperation after a failed attempt to leave the country and become jihadists overseas, a Chinese official was Wednesday quoted as saying.

Officer tells of fight with terrorists | China Daily –Kunming SWAT team officer Zhang Jun (not his real name) went on his first real crisis response mission on Saturday at Kunming Railway Station and came face to face with a gang of knife-wielding terrorists slashing and stabbing people at random. He was the only member of the four-man team armed with an automatic rifle.

Uygur community tries to regain trust after incident | China Daily — Three days after a deadly terrorist attack by eight people from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the biggest Uygur community in Kunming, Yunnan province, is trying to recover from the shock. In Dashuying, which has the biggest community of Uygurs in Kunming, people from different ethnic groups are trying to build trust.

Journalists see bias in Western coverage | China Daily — On Monday, the All-China Journalists Association condemned major Western media outlets, including CNN and AP, for “turning a blind eye” to the terrorist attack at a Kunming railway station, where 29 people were killed and 143 injured.

Xi calls for strong ethnic unity to guide nation after rampage | China Daily — Qin Guangrong, Party secretary of Yunnan province and a deputy to the National People’s Congress, said on Tuesday that police tracked the three suspects who fled Kunming to the Honghe Hani and Yi autonomous prefecture in southern Yunnan and arrested them in Shadian, a largely Muslim township in the prefecture, 40 hours after the attack. Qin was the first Yunnan deputy to the NPC to make an official statement on the massacre.

March 4

Report: suspects apprehended in Kunming mass stabbing case | GoKunming — Chinese state-run media is reporting all suspects believed to have taken part in a brutal attack on civilians at the Kunming railway station have been arrested or killed. Initial reports put the number of perpetrators at ten or more, but that number has been scaled back to eight.

Kunming terrorist attack suspects captured | Xinhua — Chinese police said Monday three suspects involved in the terrorist attack in the southwestern city of Kunming had been captured. The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement that the terrorist gang led by Abdurehim Kurban was responsible for the attack.

After Prodding, U.S. State Department Labels Kunming Attack ‘Terrorism’ | NYT — Questioned by reporters, a State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, called the deadly attack in Kunming a terrorist attack, after the Chinese state news media accused overseas news agencies of failing to do so.

Train Station Rampage Further Strains Ethnic Relations in China | NYT — Relations have never been easy between the Han majority and Uighurs, but after an attack on Saturday, many Chinese are saying the mood is worsening.

Kunming massacre: Has the global jihad reached China? | Daily Telegraph — No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for last Saturday’s attack. But some fear it may be the start of a new cycle of violence as China becomes a target for radicals trained or influenced by Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The state media called the attack “China’s 9-11”: the moment when Islamic terrorists began to target Chinese civilians.

Is the Kunming Knife Attack China’s 9-11? | The Diplomat — The deadly attack in Kunming may forever change the way China thinks about and deals with terrorism.

Terror in Kunming | The Economist — Chinese police announced the capture on Monday of three suspected participants in a gruesome attack by a knife-wielding gang that killed 29 people in the main train station of Kunming, a major city in China’s south-west.

Security tightened at railway stations, airports in major cities | China Daily — Police in Kunming, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other provincial capitals, including Xi’an, Shaanxi province, and Changsha, Hunan province, have stepped up police forces at transport hubs and public areas such as shopping malls and schools, authorities said.

Western Media Coverage of Kunming’s Terror Attack Shows Sheer Mendacity and Heartlessness | People’s Daily Online — While China grieved and expressed its outrage following the savage stabbing of innocent civilians by Xinjiang separatists at the crowded railway station in southwest China’s Kunming Saturday night, some Western media organizations, including CNN, Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, were already presenting their audiences and their readership with a distorted view of events.

US: Train depot attack ‘terrorism’ | China Daily — On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US acknowledged that China has characterized the incident as a terrorist act.

Impact of terror attack on Yunnan tourism limited | China Daily — The terrorist attack in southwest China’s Kunming on Saturday has had and will have a limited impact on tourism in Yunnan province, the provincial tourism authority said on Tuesday.

Media innuendos unjustified | China Daily — Most media organizations worldwide covered the incident in a professional manner in line with the principle of humanity, however, a handful of Western news organizations have rubbed salt into the wounds, says a Xinhua commentary.

Kunming Train Station Attacks: The Media’s Response | East by Southeast — More than a day has passed since Kunmingers and the rest of the world awoke to news of Saturday night’s terrorist attack at the Kunming Railway Station. In that time, local residents, concerned citizens, the media and the world at large have begun the process of digesting what happened and what it all means.

Kaiser Kuo: On Radicalization and Chinese Policy | via East by Southeast –While I’ve noted elsewhere how it bothers me profoundly that many Anglophone commentators offer a merely perfunctory nod to the monstrousness of the knife attacks that claimed 29 innocent lives and sent 160 or more people to the hospital with stab and slash wounds before moving on to the “real” issue of Chinese repression of Uyghur rights, I do believe the desire on the part of some people to use the Kunming massacre to talk about underlying issues is well-intentioned and appropriate.

March 3

Video Said to Be of Kunming Attack Aftermath Appears Online | NYT — Video has emerged on a Chinese video-sharing service that apparently shows scenes from the knife attack in the Kunming train station on Saturday that left at least 29 people dead.

U.N. Security Council Condemns ‘Terrorist Attack’ in Kunming | NYT — As the United Nations Security Council condemned the attack in China’s Kunming train station that left at least 29 dead, the authorities moved to delete social media posts that called on leaders to allow open discussion of the situation in Xinjiang, where tensions are running high.

China Train Station Attackers May Have Acted ‘in Desperation’ | Radio Free Asia — A group of knife-wielding attackers who went on a weekend slashing spree at a train station in China’s southern Yunnan province may have been disgruntled ethnic minority Uyghur asylum seekers who felt “trapped” between violence in their Xinjiang homeland and the inability to flee across the border into Laos, sources say.

Report People From Xinjiang, Police Say After Deadly Attack | NYT — A police station in the southern region of Guangxi has called on citizens to report any people from Xinjiang in their midst, after attackers believed to be from the far western region killed at least 29 people on Saturday.

Kunming in the aftermath of the train station attack | GoKunming — n the wake of the attack on the Kunming Train Station, in which official sources say at least 29 people lost their lives and 143 were injured, I went to sniff around the city for stories and reactions. People are stoic, supportive of their fellow citizens and have seemed to steer clear of any racial or religious violence.

Kunming restores order after deadly terror attack | China Daily — At the train station where the attacked happened, train arrivals resumed on Sunday after three trains with 3,000 passengers were affected on Saturday night, said station officials. Meanwhile, 60,000 passengers are expected to leave the station on Sunday, higher than the 59,000 on Saturday.

China Focus: Legislators, advisors urge US to abandon terrorism double standard | People’s Daily Online — China’s legislators and political advisors have urged Washington to condemn Saturday’s deadly attack in southwest China as terrorist activity after the U.S. downplayed its severity. “The U.S. definition of terrorist activities hinges on its own political interests,” Yin Zhuo, director of the Expert Consultation Committee of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, told Xinhua on Monday.

Uygur general: PLA backs Xinjiang’s counter-terrorism efforts | People’s Daily Online — The counter-terrorism efforts in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have the strong backing from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said a senior military commander here Monday. “Counter-terrorism arrangements are in place to prevent serious incidents in Xinjiang,” said Saimati Muhammat, major general and deputy commander of the Xinjiang Military Area Command, in an interview with Xinhua.

March 2

China Blames Xinjiang Separatists for Stabbing Rampage at Train Station | NYT — Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, officials on Sunday described the killings as an act of terrorism planned and perpetrated by separatists from Xinjiang, where members of the Uighur minority are increasingly at odds with the government.

Attackers With Knives Kill 29 at Chinese Rail Station | NYT — A group of assailants, dressed in black and wielding knives, stormed into a train station in Kunming in southwestern China, slashing employees and commuters.

Horrific Knife Attack in China Leaves 33 Dead | Diplomat — Authorities vow justice as a group of men it says are Xinjiang separatists attack a crowd in Kunming.

Attack leaves dozens dead at Kunming Train Station | GoKunming — A coordinated assault by at least ten people at the Kunming Train Station has left more than 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police reportedly killed four of the attackers and arrested another, while five others remain at large.

Foreigners cautious in Kunming | China Daily — Kunming has for many years been a favored destination for foreign travelers, and it has a bubbling expat community. Foreigners in Kunming were shocked by the attack, especially those who witnessed it.

Migrants use hookahs to fight terrorists | China Daily — At around 9:30pm, Wang Dezhu, a migrant worker from Baoshan city in Yunnan, and some companions were preparing to take the train to Hebei province when the terrorists attacked. He said the migrant workers wielded bamboo hookahs – long, bamboo water pipes used in rural areas – as a weapon to protect themselves.

Social media users condemn attacks, pray for the dead | China Daily — On Sina Weibo, netizens are spreading the word of stopping the circulation of bloody photos on the Internet.

At least 29 dead, 130 injured in Kunming violence | China Daily — Twenty-nine civilians were confirmed dead and more than 130 others injured Saturday in a railway station attack in Southwest Chinese city of Kunming, authorities said. Police have shot dead at least four attackers whose identities are yet to be confirmed and are hunting for the rest. It was an organized, premeditated violent terrorist attack, according to the authorities.

Deadly Kunming Knife Attack Leaves 33 Dead, 130+ Wounded | East by Southeast — The Spring City’s reputation was irrevocably changed on the evening of Saturday March 1 as a group of five to ten knife-wielding attackers entered the Kunming Railway Station and engaged in a stabbing rampage that killed 28 passengers and wounded more than 100. The Chinese government is labeling the assailants as a Uyghur separatist terrorist group although very little is known of the actual identities of the assailants and their motives.

March 1

Police confirm injuries in Kunming railway station | China Daily — A group of unidentified armed men on Saturday stormed into a railway station in Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province, causing injuries, said the city police. Casualties have been under investigation, according to the police.

China’s ‘Blurred Lines’ on Security Threats | Diplomat — Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party is purposely conflating external and domestic security threats. /This was published the day of the attack at the train station, apparently before news had emerged, however it’s unfortunate timing by The Diplomat./

 

 

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Regional Roundup for the Week of 3.1.14

This week’s top news included increased criticism of how China’s government has handled recent severe pollution, heightening concerns that the poor air quality and slow response for a solution will have lasting long-term impact on the economy as well as the environment. There have been reports that more and more elite and educated Chinese are choosing to move away from developed urban coastal cities in favor of less-polluted areas, including Kunming and Dali in Yunnan Province. Aside from the problem of visible air pollution and the dangers of micro particles like PM2.5, a growing concern is water and earth pollution, which may prove even more challenging to reverse. This should be of great concern to officials here in Yunnan Province, home to the Three Parallel Rivers National Park that includes the upper reaches of the Mekong, Yangtze and Salween Rivers.

Political unrest in Thailand continues, with some speculation that the protests are losing steam and even as violence has escalated recently. Protesters agreed to remove blockades from major intersections, a decision that came after a speech by the head of Thailand’s army that distanced himself from the protest movement. However, political deadlock remains weeks after elections and will likely persist into the spring until an agreement is reached between the government and political opposition.

ExSE FOCUS

Party chief: Yunnan ’embracing a new era of environmental protection’ | GoKunming — The most powerful government official in Yunnan, Party Secretary Qin Guangrong (秦 光荣), delivered a speech last week in which he at times bluntly addressed many of the environmental concerns facing the province. Although Qin was, perhaps expectedly, speaking in broad terms, he did mention specific goals and characterized environmental issues as the top priority currently facing the province.

Water Pollution: More Difficult to Fix Than Dirty Air? | ChinaFile — Although China’s air pollution keeps making headlines, its water pollution is just as urgent a problem. One-fifth of the country’s rivers are toxic, while two-fifths are classified as seriously polluted. In 2012, more than half of China’s cities had water that was “poor” or “very poor.” Last week, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection announced a trillion-yuan (U.S.$320 billion) plan to start dealing with this urgent issue.

Protesters Say They’ll End Blockades in Bangkok | NYT — The leaders of the campaign apologized for blockades of major intersections and promised a new strategy for the protests.

Thailand’s Army Chief Cautions Antigovernment Protesters | NYT — The head of Thailand’s army, after months of neutrality, tells government opponents to “ask yourselves whether this would end peacefully.”

Currency of China Continues to Decline | NYT — The value of China’s currency, the renminbi, continued to slide against the United States dollar on Friday, rattling investors by falling to its lowest level in nearly a year before closing higher

A Border City on the Edge of the Law | NYT — Mong La, Myanmar, draws Chinese over the border to gamble, as well as buy ivory and other animal parts, despite official disapproval of the casinos in China.

Burma tells Medécins Sans Frontières to leave state hit by sectarian violence | Guardian — Médecins Sans Frontières has been ordered by Burma’s government to suspend all operations in a conflict-riddled state because of what officials described as a lack of impartiality in medical treatment.

China Accused of Firing Water Cannons at Filipino Fishermen | NYT — The Philippine military said the Chinese Coast Guard tried to drive away Filipino fishing vessels at the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

Yunnan province increasingly feeding China’s hungry north | GoKunming — Last year, 8.5 million tons of produce grown in Yunnan was shipped to boomtowns in China’s north and east, nearly equaling totals of the previous two years combined. The largest consumers of crops grown south of the clouds, respectively, are Beijing, Tianjin, Xi’an, Xianyang, Hohhot, Yinchuan and Zhengzhou. These cities and six others have established wholesale markets specializing in selling Yunnan produce.

CHINA

China’s President Will Lead a New Effort on Cybersecurity | NYT — President Xi Jinping is presiding over a working group on security, a sign that the Communist Party views the issue as a pressing strategic concern.

In Beijing, Complaints About Smog Grow Louder and Retaliation Grows Swifter  | NYT — Anger is rising over the government’s inability to protect the nation from pollution that has made places like the capital “unsuitable for human habitation,” as a prominent think tank stated this month in a study that was swiftly censored.

Citizen Sues Local Government for Failing to Curb Air Pollution | ChinaFile — Although residents in Northern China are no strangers to dirty air, a man from the smog-enshrouded Hebei province has decided to take the local environmental authority to court for failing to control air pollution.

LinkedIn Goes to China | NYT — The social network for business is creating a Chinese-language site. LinkedIn says it may have to practice self-censorship on its growing publishing platform.

How the Internet and Social Media Are Transforming China | ChinaFile — “The Internet has radically transformed China,” said Emily Parker, author of the book Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground, in a public discussion at Asia Society in New York on February 19.

Chinese authorities bust child-trafficking ring – video | Guardian — Chinese police have detained 1,094 people and rescued 382 babies in a crackdown on four online baby trafficking rings, state media reported

Many in China Can Now Have a Second Child, but Say No | NYT — A relaxing of the one-child policy will allow two children in a family when just one parent is an only child, but the cost of child-rearing has given some couples pause.

REGION

Asian Giants Look to the Arctic | Diplomat — After a lengthy courtship, China and India formalized their relationship with the Arctic Council in May 2013 by gaining admission as official observer states. China’s Academic Battle for the South China Sea | Diplomat — Beijing supports increased research on South China Sea issues as part of a soft power push for control.

BRUNEI

Brunei’s Royal Partiers May Have To Curb Their Enthusiasm | Diplomat — The introduction of Sharia Law will put an end to the alcohol-fueled soirees enjoyed by Brunei’s rich.

CAMBODIA

Getting Stares on the Streets of Cambodia: Buses for the Masses | NYT — Phnom Penh is experimenting with a public transportation system, beginning with 10 buses, in a program underwritten by the Japanese government.

Minimum maximum | SEA Globe — Recent violence in Cambodia linked to protests over wage levels underlines the struggle between workers, governments and business owners

Treasured islands | SEA Globe — Beauty and a burly sea captain await passengers sailing Cambodia’s Koh Rong archipelago

INDONESIA

Indonesia’s South China Sea Options | Diplomat — Indonesia has the potential to defend its maritime interests, but for now it will need a partner.

Climate Change Could Lead to the Disappearance of 1,500 Indonesian Islands | Diplomat — Rising seas could swallow as many as 1,500 of Indonesia’s islands by 2050, according to a report from the Maplecroft Climate Change Vulnerability Index. It stated that Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport could be underwater as soon as 2030 if the current rate of global warming persists.

Oscar-Nominated Documentary Scrapes at Raw Wound in Indonesia | Irrawaddy — A chilling documentary about one of the worst massacres since World War Two is up for an Academy Award this weekend. If it does win, don’t expect the Indonesian co-director to go on stage to receive an Oscar: he’s worried for his life.

MALAYSIA

‘Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick’: What is Malaysia Playing At? | Diplomat — Malaysia and China have had maritime run-ins with mixed results. What is Malaysia’s endgame in the South China Sea?

Malaysian Prime Minister: One in 10 Citizens Pay Their Taxes | Diplomat — Prime Minister Najib Razak announced yesterday that only one out of every 10 Malaysians pay their taxes. Najib, who is also the country’s finance minister, warned that lost tax revenue could force the government to borrow money to pay a steadily increasing number of civil servants.

MYANMAR/BURMA

Myanmar’s Census Controversy | Diplomat — Myanmar is scheduled to hold a census next month but local and international monitoring groups are worried that it could inflame ethnic and religious tensions in the country.

At the mercy of the winds | SEA Globe — Artisans fear their skills won’t survive the onslaught of time and increasing modernity in Myanmar

PHILIPPINES

Gimme shelter | SEA Globe — Plans for a purpose-built hamlet envision opportunity, equality and recognition for the little people of the Philippines

SINGAPORE

Fears over pace of climate change as Singapore, Malaysia battle drought | SCMP — Singapore and Malaysia are grappling with some of the driest weather they have ever seen, forcing Singapore to boost supplies of recycled water while its neighbour rations reserves amid disruptions to farming and fisheries.

Lee Hsien Loong on What Singapore Can—and Can’t—Teach China | ChinaFile — The transformation of Singapore in recent decades can offer valuable lessons to China as it reforms. In an exclusive interview with Caixin in early February, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong discussed his expectations for Singapore’s future and challenges confronting the country.

THAILAND

Bangkok Turmoil and Thailand’s Deep South | Diplomat — Prospects for peace in South Thailand recede as Bangkok plunges into political turmoil.

Thailand Headed for a Violent Ending | CFR Asia Unbound — Clashes in Thailand between anti-government protestors and security forces have intensified. This past weekend, unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets at anti-government protestors in eastern Thailand and killed a five-year-old girl, and someone apparently launched two grenade attacks in Bangkok. Since this current round of demonstrations started last November, 21 people have been killed and hundreds injured in Thailand. The country has basically functioned without an effective government now for months, the once-teflon economy is sputtering, and Thais are preparing for the violence to get worse. Crash That Kills Schoolgirls Highlights Thai Road Dangers | NYT — A bus accident that killed 15 people provides a grim corroboration for a study finding that Thailand has the world’s second-highest road fatality rate.

VIETNAM

Project blends Rotterdam knowhow with Ho Chi Minh City street smarts | Guardian — Rotterdam, with long experience in flood management, is advising Ho Chi Minh City on the development and implementation of a climate adaptation plan to help the Vietnamese city avoid disaster as sea levels rise and the frequency and severity of storms increases.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 2.23.2014

Just links this week – and lots of them…

EXSE FOCUS

Gunmen Wound at Least 35 at Rally in Thailand – AP Assailants in a pickup truck attacked the antigovernment rally held by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee in the province of Trat, about 180 miles east of Bangkok.//much more on the unfortunate news coming out of Thailand below

 Behind Pattern of Global Unrest, a Middle Class in Revolt – Asia Unbound For months now, protesters have gathered in the capitals of many developing nations—Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Cambodia, among others—in demonstrations united by some key features. In nearly all of these places, protesters are pushing to oust presidents or prime ministers they claim are venal, authoritarian, and unresponsive to popular opinion. Nearly all of these governments, no matter how corrupt, brutal, and autocratic, actually won elections in relatively free polls. And in nearly all of these countries the vast majority of demonstrators hail from cosmopolitan areas: Kiev, Bangkok, Caracas, Istanbul, and other cities. The streets seem to be filled with very people one might expect to support democracy rather than put more nails in its coffin. // Kurlantzick’s book Democracy in Retreat is a must read.  Thankfully someone is looking through a classist lens at the perils and effects of globalization

 Kerry Implores Indonesia on Climate Change Peril – NYT Secretary of State John Kerry said Indonesia’s failure to act would jeopardize its resources, damage its economy and put much of the capital under water.

Assessing John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta – Asia Unbound Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit this weekend (U.S. time) to Jakarta was brief, packed into his whirlwind Asia trip. His short stay in Jakarta was understandable—I think Kerry, despite criticism that he has focused too much on the Middle East, has put in enough of the face time in Asia to justify his claim that he has continued the administration’s policy of re-engagement with Southeast Asia. The fact that Kerry chose to give a speech in front of an audience of students at a cultural center highlighted some of the American embassy in Jakarta’s soft power efforts in the archipelago. And I certainly would agree with most of what Kerry said in his speech on climate change and the threat of global warming—that climate change is a near-apocalyptic threat to the world, that the science about global warming is settled, that Indonesia is one of the developing nations most likely to be affected by climate change, that global warming could prove a death blow to many parts of the archipelago.

Chinese Ask Kerry to Help Tear Down a Firewall – NYT Meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, a group of Chinese bloggers appealed to the United States to take up the cause of Internet freedom.

 McDonald’s Opens in Vietnam, Bringing Big Mac to Fans of Banh Mi – NYT The fast-food giant is opening its first restaurant in the country, which some see as one of Asia’s last consumer markets with significant untapped potential.

After Winding Odyssey, Tibetan Texts Find Home in China – NYT An American scholar’s trove of 12,000 Tibetan-language texts has a new home, a lavishly decorated library on the campus of the Southwest University for Nationalities in Chengdu, China.

 The Red Chains of Bureaucracy That ‘Torment’ Chinese – NYT A politician in the southern city of Guangzhou has listed more than 100 documents the average citizen needs in a lifetime, arguing that China’s bureaucracy is too tortuous. His proposal for streamlining has been met with approval.

Yes, cats and dogs are special – they deserve our protection in China – The Guardian Pets are still being stolen and slaughtered for their meat, but old ideas are changing. There’s no welcome like it when To Zhai and Muppet come hurtling towards me, after I return home to our bear rescue centre in Chengdu, Sichuan province. These incredibly sociable and outgoing dogs have, thankfully, forgotten that they were both once destined for the dinner table in China.

 PLA Officer: China Must Establish South China Sea ADIZ – The Diplomat A Chinese military officer has said that establishing a South China Sea ADIZ is necessary to China’s national interest.

 China Is Not 1914 Germany – The Diplomat Some critical differences render any comparison badly flawed.

 Japan, ASEAN Discuss Defense Exports, Disaster Relief Cooperation – The Diplomat Japanese and ASEAN officials met to discuss potential Japanese defense exports.

Try Procrastination and Prevarication – Banyan NEGOTIATIONS for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which enter a crucial phase this weekend with a ministerial meeting in Singapore, seem to take place in two parallel universes. In one, the 12 countries pursuing this ambitious “21st-century” plurilateral free-trade agreement, including America and Japan (but not China) and representing 40% of the world’s GDP and one-third of its trade, came tantalisingly close to meeting their deadline of finalising the deal last year, and are now one last big push—perhaps in the next few days—away from success. In the other, TPP talks are bogged down in intractable disagreements on the most fundamental issues. The notion that it might be signed—let alone implemented—in the near future seems a delusion.

Chinese Netizens (Still) Love ‘House of Cards’ – TLN “Everyone in China who works on this level pays who they need to pay.” Mild spoiler alert: These are the words of the fictitious Xander Feng, an influential Chinese billionaire on the Netflix series “House of Cards,” a show that follows the machinations of U.S. Representative (and later Vice President) Frank Underwood to agglomerate power and crush whoever stands in his way. The phrase is also now viral on the Chinese Internet, which has proven surprisingly hospitable to the show’s second season, which debuted on February 14. Despite having its arguably Sinophobic moments—in addition to Feng-as-villain, the show depicts a Stateside Chinese businessman hiring both male and female sex workers, and a U.S. casino laundering Chinese money to fund a Congressional SuperPAC—the show has Chinese social media users applauding what they believe is a largely accurate depiction of Chinese palace politics

China in ‘House of Cards’ – ChinaFile China figures heavily in the second season of the Netflix series House of Cards, but how accurately does the show portray U.S.-China relations? Steven Jiang, a journalist for CNN in Beijing, binged-watched all thirteen recently-released web-only episodes over the weekend. Donald Clarke, professor of Chinese law at George Washington University, responded to our query saying we’d reached his “inner nerd.” Jiang and Clarke started us off putting the lie to Hollywood’s portrayal of U.S.-China relations, and were followed by Kaiser Kuo, Director of International Communications for Chinese search engine Baidu and co-host of the Sinica Podcast, and by Evan Osnos, staff writer at The New Yorker.

Chinese Censors Have Kept Their Hands Off ‘House of Cards’ – NYT The absence of censorship for the Chinese broadcast of the series is somewhat surprising, and it may indicate a more relaxed approach toward the newer medium of online television show imports.

Chinese thriller wins best film and best actor prizes at Berlin festival – The Guardian Asian films take limelight with best actor and best actress prizes but Richard linklater wins best director for Boyhoo

 Party chief: Yunnan ’embracing a new era of environmental protection’ – GoKunming The most powerful government official in Yunnan, Party Secretary Qin Guangrong (秦光荣), delivered a speech last week in which he at times bluntly addressed many of the environmental concerns facing the province. Although Qin was, perhaps expectedly, speaking in broad terms, he did mention specific goals and characterized environmental issues as the top priority currently facing the province. His opening remarks set the tone for a surprisingly frank monologue.//Believe it when we see it.

 Dawei Awaits Its Destiny – Irawaddy U Aung Myint, a community leader from Mudu village, stands next to a meter-long, gold-colored footprint with 108 Buddhist signs that was carved on a large boulder many centuries ago. “We believe that the Buddha visited here and that this is his left footprint,” he said. The relic, around which a pagoda has been constructed, is part of the heritage of the ethnic Dawei people, who have lived in southern Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region since the 8th century. The ancient artifact gave the cluster of villages on this remote coastal plain its local name: Nabule. “The Pali word for left foot is Nabule,” U Aung Myint explained.//The Dawei port is a game changer in geo-politics, trade routes and regional relations.  It’s a way for Burma to wean itself further from China and for Thailand to emerge as a stronger regional player.

Overshooting in Emerging Markets – Project Syndicate In the last few years, investors, policymakers, and businesses have been devoting considerable attention to the so-called “middle-income trap.” As a result, emerging markets’ downside risks are increasingly shaping the consensus forecast – a poor basis for investment and policy decisions.

 

ON THE DALAI LAMA’S VISIT TO THE WHITE HOUSE

What Can the Dalai Lama’s White House Visit Actually Accomplish? – ChinaFile On February 21, the Dalai Lama visited United States President Barack Obama in the White House over the objections of the Chinese government. Beijing labels the exiled spiritual leader a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to use violence to free Tibet from Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, disavows the use of violence and says he only wants autonomy for Tibetans. He and Obama previously met in February 2010 and July 2011.

On Lamas in the White House… – The Granite Studio Most Chinese are well aware of the “Western” perspective on Tibet and are understandably prickly about the kinds of epithets used to describe Chinese control over the region. I’m not advocating that we (as in the “West”) need to sugarcoat what is happening in Tibet so that our Chinese friends can feel warm and fuzzy, but the habit of talking AT the Chinese about Tibet is likely no less productive in the long run than the Chinese PR ‘strategy’ outlined in this article.

 China denounces Barack Obama’s meeting with Dalai Lama – The Guardian Beijing says White House meeting is ‘gross interference in Chinese politics’ and will damage China-US relations. Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday, despite objections from China, which has warned that the meeting would inflict grave damage on Sino-American relations.

 China denounces Barack Obama’s meeting with Dalai Lama – The Guardian Beijing says White House meeting is ‘gross interference in Chinese politics’ and will damage China-US relations. Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday, despite objections from China, which has warned that the meeting would inflict grave damage on Sino-American relations.

Obama Walks Tightrope With Dalai Lama Meeting – The Diplomat Obama did just enough to avoid retaliation by Beijing for his meeting with the Dalai Lama.

China Criticizes Obama Over Visit by Dalai Lama – NYT In contrast to previous meetings, the White House seemed unruffled by the diplomatic repercussions of the meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

 

CHINA

Beijing Official Detained in Investigation of Former Security Chief – NYT The investigation, centered on the former head of law and order policy, reaches a secretive realm in China’s leadership.

Chinese Officials Widen Campaign Against Vices – NYT The operation appears intended to send a message similar to the so-called anticorruption campaign promoted by President Xi Jinping

Manufacturing Activity Contracts Again in China – REUTERS The slowdown at factories has unsettled markets, although the decline may have reflected in part the annual Lunar New Year holiday.

China Investigating Qualcomm’s Pricing – REUTERS The American chip maker is suspected of overcharging and abusing its market position, the Chinese anti-monopoly regulator said.

Nobel Winner’s Frank Advice to China’s Leadership – NYT To make the transition to a high-income economy, A. Michael Spence calls for bolstering domestic demand and exposing state firms to more market pressure

Taiwan and China Edge Ever Closer – NYT But many Taiwanese prefer the status quo over future unification.

Hunter Gross: What Did China and Taiwan’s Historic Talks Accomplish? Asia Unbound The four-day visit between Zhang Zhijun, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) and Wang Yu-chi, chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), has been described as “historic,” “a turning point in relations,” and “unimaginable.” But the meeting is not unprecedented. In recent years, several encounters between Chinese and Taiwanese representatives have led to this moment. This meeting, however, serves as a symbolic affirmation of the relatively stable status quo that benefits both Beijing and Taipei. To be sure, from a diplomatic standpoint, this is the first official meeting between China and Taiwan since the end of the civil war in 1949. Despite the media hype, however, this is unlikely to bring about any substantial changes in cross-strait relations, and a dramatic change was not necessarily the goal.

China’s Fear Strategy – Project Syndicate Not long ago, China was a soft-power juggernaut, seemingly content to allow its own example of success to speak for itself. Today, China, like many large countries, is allowing its internal political battles to shape how it interacts with others, especially with neighbors whose sensitivities it seems entirely willing to ignore.

China vows to hunt down officials who sheltered Liu Han’s ‘mafia gang’ – The Guardian Authorities to punish Sichuan officials who protected former mining tycoon Liu Han and his gang during ’10-year crime spree.’ Chinese authorities will hunt down the officials who gave protection to a “mafia-style” gang run by a former mining magnate charged with crimes ranging from murder to gun-running.  Liu Han – the former chairman of Hanlong Mining, which attempted to take over Australia’s Sundance Resources Ltd – led his gang on a crime spree for more than a decade in China’s south-western province of Sichuan, state media said.

Chinese government sacks Dongguan police chief over prostitution scandal – The Guardian Yan Xiaokang removed from posts of police chief and vice mayor following televised report into underground sex industry. The Chinese government has sacked the police chief of Dongguan following a report by the main state broadcaster,China Central Television (CCTV), on the underground sex industry there, the Xinhua news agency has reported.

China Will Have to Face a Stronger US-Japan Alliance – The Diplomat Despite its wish for a new type of relationship with the US, China will face a stronger US-Japan alliance in coming years.

China: The Insecure Global Power – The Diplomat Faced with growing expectations, China’s foreign policy is actually becoming more insecure.

Local-government debt: Bridging the fiscal chasm – The Economist CHINA’S provincial administrations are often referred to as “local” governments. But the phrase does not do them justice. The province of Guangdong, for example, boasts more than 105m people and a GDP worth more than $1 trillion. Only 11 countries (including China itself) have a bigger population and only 15 have a larger economy.Equally impressive is the scale of provincial debts. At the end of 2013 China’s national auditor revealed that the liabilities of local governments had grown to 10.9 trillion yuan ($1.8 trillion) by the middle of last year, or 17.9 trillion yuan if various debt guarantees were added.

Academic freedom: Don’t think, just teach – The Economist A MOTTO of Peking University, one of China’s leading academic institutions, is “freedom of thought and an all-embracing attitude”. But in recent months it was not all-embracing enough to allow Xia Yeliang, an outspoken economics professor, to keep his job. Economics was not the subject on which Mr Xia was most forthright. He was a signatory of Charter 08, a petition drawn up in 2008 that called for sweeping political change, and he was known for his liberal political views.

 Pollution Tax Suggested for Wealthy Chinese Fleeing for Greener Pastures – ChinaDialogue Environmental problems have become an important factor causing the rich to leave China—but one academic has now suggested that they should first pay an environmental levy. Chen Guoen, a professor at Wuhan University, said that some Western investment-for-citizenship schemes are tempting China’s rich to emigrate and enjoy cleaner air. According to Chen, China should respond by imposing an environmental restoration levy on those leaving—their accumulation of wealth will have had environmental consequences, and they should not be allowed to take that money and run.

Yunnan province increasingly feeding China’s hungry north – GoKunming China’s ever-growing cities need food, massive amounts of it, and are often unable to grow enough locally. One of many attempts to address this problem was implemented in 2011, when a program designed to send produce grown in the country’s less populated west to teaming cities elsewhere in China was instituted. An article originally published in the Spring City Evening News, and then redistributed nationally by Xinhua, reports the initiative has proved successful enough to warrant further expansion and investment.

 

REGION

Asylum Fraud in Chinatown: Industry of Lies – NYT More Chinese immigrants seek asylum than any other immigrant group in the country, and most of them apply from New York, where federal officials regard the applicant pool with suspicion.

U.S. Army Seeks Better Ties With China’s Military – NYT As tensions rise between China and other Asian nations, a top U.S. general is working on improving contacts with China’s military.’ v:shapes=”_x0000_i1026″>

 Ecuador pursued China oil deal while pledging to protect Yasuni, papers show – The Guardian Negotiations took place while the country sought funds to forgo oil exploitation in pristine forest under the Yasuni-ITT scheme. The Ecuadorian government was negotiating a secret $1bn deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon while pursuing a high-profile scheme to keep the oil under the ground in return for international donations, according to a government document seen by the Guardian.

Wealthy Chinese buyers are making Sydney’s housing problem worse – The Guardian Last year median house prices in Sydney rose by 15%, and in some suburbs by up to 27%. Cash pouring in from foreign investors is one of the drivers of this change.

 A U.S.-China Summit Diplomacy Rivalry – The Diplomat With a new summit this year, the U.S. can begin to compete with China for influence in Africa

China Offers To Finance 30 Percent Of Indian Infrastructure Spending Through 2017 – The Diplomat The offer would see $300 billion of Chinese funding flow into India through 2017.

 America and China’s Perception Problems – The Diplomat Around the world China is increasingly seen as the bully while the U.S. seems more and more irresolute.

Closing the Distance: Investing in the Pacific Transport Sector – ADB Island countries in the Pacific need a strong transport sector to support economic growth. ADB’s transport strategy in the region focuses on improving access to markets and social services and building integrated transport systems.

Lee Hsien Loong on What Singapore Can—and Can’t—Teach China – Caixin As one of the Four Asian Tigers, Singapore is known for its strong economy and orderly society. The city-state, with its population of 5.3 million people, is listed by the World Bank as fourth in the world in terms of per capita income. As a regional business hub, it is lauded for its sound business reputation and the transparency of its government. Singapore has also been something of an example for China over the past three decades. A visit by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 provided inspiration for China’s reform and opening up.

Asia’s New Security Trifecta – Project Syndicate Winter is India’s diplomatic high season, with the cool, sunny weather forming an ideal backdrop for pageantry. But this winter has been particularly impressive, with leaders from Japan and South Korea joining Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to advance the cause of security cooperation in Asia.

A Clear Case for Golden Rice – Project Syndicate In some environmental circles, blanket opposition to genetically modified organisms is like taking a loyalty oath – dissidents are regarded as traitors in league with the evil biotech industry. It is time to move beyond such a narrowly ideological stance.

The Davos Apocalypse – Project Syndicate At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos last month, leading participants called for a rapid shift to cleaner energy to tackle climate change. There was something unsettling about the global power elite jetting into an exclusive Swiss ski resort and telling the rest of the world to stop using fossil fuels.

India’s disappearing glaciers – The Third Pole The base camp of the Chhota Shigri glacier –  one of the few glaciers monitored regularly in the Indian Himalayas –  stands amidst stones, where once ice flowed 50 metres thick.  The Chhota Shigri glacier is one of three glaciers that has been monitored regularly in the Indian Himalayas over the past decades. (Photo by Ranvir Singh). The Chhota Shigri base camp offers a breath-taking view of the northern ridge of the Pir Panjal range in the Indian Himalayas that reach up to 6,500 metres (21,325 feet). Lateral moraines, the accumulation of boulders and stone deposited by a glacier, form parallel ridges about 50 metres high and 170 metres wide.

 

CAMBODIA

Cambodians board Phnom Penh’s first public buses in more than a decade – The Guardian Authorities hope road users will swap motorbikes taxis for buses to ease congestion on city’s traffic-clogged roads. Motorcycles, cars, tuk-tuks and the humble rickshaw dominate its traffic-clogged roads, but Phnom Penh has a new weapon in the fight against chronic congestion – its first public buses in more than a decade. Cambodia’s transport system lags behind many of its south-east Asian neighbours, which long ago resorted to public vehicles to ease gridlocked roads in major cities.

Getting Stares on the Streets of Cambodia: Buses for the Masses – NYT Phnom Penh is experimenting with a public transportation system, beginning with 10 buses, in a program underwritten by the Japanese government.’ v:shapes=”_x0000_i1030″>

 Mending hearts – SEA Globe At SL Factory in Phnom Penh, young women sort through piles of blue jeans; their colourful clothes strike a contrast against the steel tables and grey walls. Down a corridor, geysers of steam erupt from massive steel washing machines. Pairs of young men wheel plastic carts of soggy garments, some eventually to be sold in Gap and H&M stores around the world, to the drying room. A man stares into the distance, his mind thick with imagination. Behind him, sheets of scalding water begin to leak from the metal hatch of his washing machine. He jumps and hits a button to release the pressure.

 

LAOS

Young Laotians Learn Chinese to Improve Job Prospects – NYT Many Chinese schools have sprung up in towns along the Laos-China border, and the schools in Vientiane are gaining popularity.

Tomorrow’s Women Water Leaders in Lao PDR – ADB Scholarships for young women in Lao People’s Democratic Republic are helping today’s students become tomorrow’s water leaders.

 

MYANMAR/BURMA

Myanmar: Signs of Unrest Raise Alarms – REUTERS

Burmese Refugees in Thailand Are Running out of Options – Irawaddy Win Myint and his two younger sisters fled Burma in June 2011, after months of harassment by plainclothes officers because of a documentary about the Burmese army featuring their exiled younger brother, a former soldier who later spent 15 years in jail for his pro-democracy activism. The officers accused them of distributing the film and warned them they could be jailed. “They told us not to go anywhere overnight. They also followed me to places I gave tuition. They accused our younger brother of trying to break the unity of the armed forces,” said Win Myint, speaking by phone from Umpiem Mai refugee camp in northern Thailand. “We didn’t feel safe,” said Myint, a 63-year-old former teacher and a Muslim.

At the mercy of the winds –  SEA Globe Artisans fear their skills won’t survive the onslaught of time and increasing modernity in Myanmar. Hpan Myay Hman Myay can’t quite remember his age. “More than 60, but not yet 70,” he says, sitting in the shade of a rust-ravaged roof. In the more than 1.5 hectares that surround him, the fruits of his labour for more than 60, but not yet 70 years, are scattered, piled high on the damp soil and half-hidden under leaf litter and sprouting shrubs encroaching on this hidden treasure. It is here, on the outskirts of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, that Hpan Myay Hman Myay joined his father in Myanmar’s first hand-blown glass factory.

Poppy replacement in Shan State will take time, money – DVB In eastern Burma, efforts are underway to hamper opium production in Shan State, which, combined with adjacent parts of Laos and Thailand, produces a staggering 18 percent of the world’s opiates. Crop substitution schemes currently being implemented in three townships are unlikely to spread to other areas without a cash injection.

Anti-corruption commission to be formed – DVB President Thein Sein proposed on Thursday that a commission be formed to begin tackling corruption in Burma. In a letter to the Chairman of the Union Parliament, Thein Sein recommended 15 members; five were selected by the president, five by the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house) and five by the Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house).

Development needed to ensure peace: KPC – DVB Brig-Gen Timothy Laklem of the Karen National Union Peace Council (KPC), an offshoot of the Karen National Union (KNU), has said that peace with Naypyidaw will only be possible once poverty has been reduced in Karen State. “Ethnic leaders are much more likely to sign the [nationwide ceasefire] agreement if there is a guarantee for people’s development,” Timothy Laklem said at a press conference in Rangoon on Thursday.

 Govt urged to settle land grab claims by September – DVB The Burmese Parliament on Thursday called on relevant government bodies to implement settlement claims over land confiscation cases by September at the latest, though the number of cases remains disputed.

From Jade Land to a Wasteland – Irawaddy “They eat up the hills like they’re devouring cakes. Hills three or four hundred feet high are completely flattened, or even turned into holes 300 feet deep. Where there used to be mountains, now there are lakes,” said U Cho, a resident of Hpakant, a town in Kachin State famed for its jade mines. Like many others in the area, U Cho is a jade dealer. But even he struggles to comprehend the scale of the destruction wrought by the jade mines here.

Manufacturing Could Start in Burma’s Thilawa Zone in Mid-2015 – Irawaddy RANGOON — About 40 foreign manufacturers are interested in setting up in the Thilawa economic zone being developed with Japanese help outside Burma’s main city, Rangoon, and commercial operations could start in mid-2015, a Burmese official said. Burma has opened up since a quasi-civilian government took office in 2011 after decades of military dictatorship and foreign firms are looking to benefit from cheap labor and a virgin market in thriving Southeast Asia.

 

MALAYSIA

Malaysian Restaurants Busted for Putting Endangered Species on the Dinner Menu – The Diplomat Special Valentine’s Day courses offered flying fox, civet and pangolin meat among others.

 

THAILAND

Court in Thailand Limits Crackdown on Protesters – NYT The Bangkok court barred the authorities from dispersing protesters one day after violent clashes left five people dead.

Economic Growth in Thailand Cools to 0.6% – NYT The unrest that has shaken Thailand since November is taking a potentially lasting toll on the country’s economy, just when regional growth over all is facing headwinds.

Thailand unrest: court prohibits use of force against protesters – The Guardian Two government orders deemed unconstitutional as violent protests continue against PM Yinluck Shinawatra. A Thai court has ordered the government not to use force against anti-government protesters after clashes between riot police and demonstrators left five dead and nearly 70 wounded.

Four killed as Thai police clash with protesters in Bangkok – The Guardian Reports of multiple gunshots from both sides as authorities attempt to clear protest sites around government offices. Four people have been killed and more than 60 injured in Bangkok after a gun battle erupted between police and anti-government protesters who have spent the past month calling for an end to the current regime.

Thailand protesters besiege temporary government HQ – The Guardian Hundreds of protesting rice farmers breach perimeter of military compound used by Yingluck Shinawatra’s mobile government. Thai opposition demonstrators have surrounded government offices – including a compound used as a temporary headquarters by the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra – in defiance of authorities who have vowed to reclaim key state buildings.

Protests in Thailand: Stagnant revolution – The Economist AS ARMED police moved in to clear an opposition protest site in central Bangkok on February 18th, it appeared that the gridlock that has paralysed the city for three months might be reaching a dénouement. Four protesters and one policemen were killed and dozens injured in the clashes that followed. But carnage did not lead to catharsis. Just a day later, a civil court ruled that police could not break up any more demonstrations.On the same day the election commission cancelled polls that had been rescheduled for April after a widespread opposition boycott of a general election on February 2nd.

Last gatekeepers – Banyan A HANDWRITTEN piece of paper affixed to one of the entrance gates of Government House reads: “Get out (of) this land”. There, sandbags and a barricade of rubber tyres fortified with razor wire protect the young men who, bucketful by bucketful, are raising a cement wall. They are sealing off the office of the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, so that she cannot return “in this life or the next”. The arrival of food, energy drinks and more cement bags suggests that they are serious. No one will rule Thailand from here, or from anywhere else for that matter, at least for a while.

 

PHILIPPINES 

The Philippines social workers who are still battling typhoon Yolanda – The Guardian Rory Truell, secretary-general of the International Federation of Social Workers, visits Filipino social workers who put their personal losses aside to support their community. The peoples of the Philippines know about hardship, surviving poverty and resilience. Despite enduring the same terrible conditions as other survivors, the social workers in Tacloban carried on doing their jobs – supporting people in restoring their lives.

15,000 Donated Boats to Replace Those Lost in Philippine Super Typhoon – The Diplomat Also: Husband joins search for missing Japanese diver in Bali, peat fires rage in Malaysia.

 

VIETNAM

UK warned that aid to Vietnam inadvertently supports death penalty – The Guardian Charities link British funding for UN anti-heroin initiatives with executions for drug-smuggling in the country. The UK’s decision to send millions of pounds in aid to Vietnam has been called into question after the country confirmed that it is to execute 30 heroin smugglers.

Bird feeders – Banyan LAPPY BIRD is a wildly popular game played on smartphones. As well as being compulsively playable, it is also frustratingly difficult: the bird has a habit of dying at the slightest slip of the index finger. To cap it all, this month its Vietnamese creator, Nguyen Ha Dong, suddenly withdrew the game from download sites such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Vietnam’s budding tech industry has come a long way in the last decade, but the withdrawal points to how far it still has to go.

Hyper-super hype? – Banyan ON FEBRUARY 8th Vietnam’s first McDonald’s opened with great fanfare in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s business capital. The event was rich in both saturated fat and historical irony: the outlet, a potent symbol of American capitalism, sits in a city that was, until 1975, a key outpost in America’s struggle against communism. The company’s local franchisee, a Harvard-educated, Vietnamese-American tech tycoon, is the son-in-law of Nguyen Tan Dung, the prime minister, who presides over a nominally communist nation.

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